Central Iowa Gambling Treatment Program  

Central Iowa Gambling Treatment Program's approach to addictions treatment is comprehensive. We concentrate on understanding each client's special needs and providing guidance needed to return clients to healthier lives.


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Compulsive Gambler Counseling

What is problem gambling?
Problem gambling refers to any gambling that goes beyond "normal" bounds of gambling for fun, recreation, or entertainment. Pathological gambling is the inability, over an extended period of time, to resist impulses to gamble. It is often characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling and a general loss of control. Pathological gamblers often "chase" their losses, feel a need to bet more frequently and in larger amounts, and continue to gamble in spite of the serious negative consequences of their behavior.

Are pathological gambling and compulsive gambling the same thing?
Yes. Most scientists and mental health professionals prefer the term "pathological gambling" as the condition is not believed to be related to "compulsions" like excessive hand-washing. The term "disordered gambling" has often been used to describe this condition.

Is someone who gambles a lot a pathological gambler?
Not necessarily. Many people who gamble frequently are simply people who enjoy gambling as entertainment. Generally these people set aside a predetermined amount of money for gambling, gamble for fun rather than for the "certainty" of winning, recognize that they are likely to lose, and don't bet more than they can afford to lose.

Can you have a gambling problem without being a pathological gambler?
Much as it's possible to abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic, it's also possible to have gambling problems without being a pathological gambler -- someone can go out and lose a lot of money at a casino after being denied a promotion, for example. Often this sort of problem resolves itself without professional intervention. Pathology is determined by both severity and frequency of the problem.

Are there phases to pathological gambling?

The gambling wins enhance self-image and ego. Losses are rationalized as bad luck. A gambler may daydream about gambling to escape reality and think that gambling is his or her most exciting activity. Many hours are often spent involved in gambling activities.
As losses increase and self-esteem is jeopardized, the gambler will borrow money to get even and continue to bet. Lies to family, spouses or friends escalate. Selling of prized possessions or even mortgaging their free and clear property may occur to cover increasing bets.
Other common danger signals include a withdrawal from family, friends or other social events due to gambling activities.
Desperation occurs as the gambler becomes obsessed with getting even to cover money lost through gambling.
The gambler can experience severe mood swings, agitation for no apparent reason, and commit crimes such as shoplifting, stealing from spouses or other family members to gamble.
Panic sets in at the thought that the gambling action will cease and at this point, nothing or no one comes before a bet. Suicidal thoughts are considered as a way out.

These phases do not represent an inevitable progression. Most people experiencing a big win do not become pathological gamblers, and some who begin to chase their losses stop before reaching the desperation phase. However, most of those seeking treatment have passed through the adventurous and losing phases and have reached desperation.

How can I tell if someone is a problem gambler?
Some warning signs of a gambling problem might include:
Looking for the "high" that comes from gambling
Increasing isolation from family and friends
Declining work performance
Neglecting basic needs like money for food and rent
Pressuring others for money as financial problems crop up
Lying about how money is spent
Escaping to other excesses (alcohol, drugs, sleep)
Denying there is a problem

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Last modified: 01/29/08