Some Answers to Your Questions About Gambling Addiction

How Do I Know If I Have A Gambling Addiction?
You will know if you have a gambling addiction if gambling has affected your life negatively socially, emotionally, financially and spiritually. If you have gambled alone, and have missed work, lost more than you could afford, or lied about gambling, you more than likely have a gambling addiction. “Compulsive Gambling” is considered an impulse control disorder and is characterized by unstoppable thoughts and uncontrollable impulses to gamble. “Problem Gambling” is considered less severe than compulsive gambling, but it is still a very serious problem.

Someone in my family is addicted to gambling. What should I do?
There are many paths you could take when a family member is addicted to gambling. You can go to a gamanon meeting yourself to get 12 -Step support from other family members of gamblers.(Check links and resources). This might be a good first step in finding out how to approach your family member, since every situation is different. Please check resources page for more information on this topic.

I have a gambling addiction and I have lost a lot of money. I am in debt, and I do not know what to do. Can you help?
Going into debt is one of the biggest after-effects of a gambling addiction. It can effect the gambler long after he or she stops gambling and is one of the long-term consequences of gambling addiction. When you attend a Gamblers Anonymous 12-Step Group you can find support from trusted members on how to deal with your debt problems. Please also visit the links and resources page to find out more about debt and credit solutions as a result of your gambling addiction. Remember, gambling addiction is not a money problem.. it is an emotional and spiritual problem with financial consequences.

Can I have a gambling addiction if I go to the casino.. but mostly win?
Yes. There are 4 phases of a gambling addiction. 1. Winning Phase: Usually starts with a big win and a belief that good luck will continue indefinitely. 2. Losing Phase: More pre-occupied with gambling. You are gambling alone, missing work, lying about your whereabouts, and beginning to chase your losses. 3. Desperation Phase: This is truly characterized by a loss of control, preoccupation with gambling, defaulting on most debt, cheating or stealing,loss of job or primary relationship. 4. Hopeless Phase: You hit rock bottom. You may also start abusing drugs or alcohol. Suicide thoughts and attempts are common in this phase.

I gamble when I am lonely and depressed. How come?
You are most likely known as an “escape gambler” You gamble to escape emotional pain. Most “escape gamblers” can become addicted to slot machines, online gambling, and bingo. An “action gambler” is someone who enjoys risk taking and gambles on games of skill such as sports betting, the stock market, and cards. “Action-gamblers” have been traditionally male, however, the genders are becoming well represented in each group.

I realize that I do have a problem… what is the first step to getting help?
Congratulations for admitting that you have a problem. This is the first step that you can take to getting better. Without this first step, your gambling addiction can continue to progress. Gambling help can be found by going to the resources page within our site. You can also call the gambling hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER. Checking out a local Gamblers Anonymous Meeting at is a good first step. Please visit our resources and links page for more information.. and again… congratulations. You are on your way to a better life.

Here Are Some Causes of a Gambling Addiction

What are some of the causes of a gambling addiction? As a former gambler and mental health counselor, I have done a lot of research on why people develop a gambling problem. What I have found is that there is more than one cause of gambling addiction and that although it is important to know the cause, the solution is much more important.

Here are some of the many causes of gambling addiction:

o Gambling is exciting while the gambler is in action. The adrenaline high feels good, and it is quite easy to become addicted to these “feel good” chemicals in our brain.
o Gambling compulsively may fill a void for many people with a gambling problem. This void could be in many areas of one’s life. Poor social life, loneliness, job dissatisfaction, empty-nest syndrome, boredom, and lack of purpose can all contribute to a gambling addiction.
o A big win at the casino is the worst possible event for anyone with a propensity for addiction. The adrenaline high of a huge jackpot can fuel future addiction like jet fuel in a plane. Most, if not all people give back the winnings from their jackpot, plus much more money as well.
o Escape from emotional pain and psychological distress can also fuel a gambling disorder. This is especially true for “escape gamblers” who mostly play slot machines, lottery, or partake in online internet gambling.
o For “action gamblers”, the craving for action and feeling very important to others can fuel a gambling addiction. Action gamblers are mostly male and are usually sports betters, poker players, and racetrack gamblers.
o The thrill of “easy money” can fuel a gambling addiction, especially if the gambling addict has a long string of wins at the beginning of his or her gambling career.
o People with anxiety and/or depression have show a strong propensity for gambling problem as well as other addictions.
o People with first degree relatives with a gambling addiction have a stronger propensity to develop this addiction themselves.

These are just some of the general causes of a gambling problem, however, there are many more as well. In addition, each unique individual will have different reasons for having a problem with gambling, and no two situations are the same.

The most important thing, however, is that once some of the causes of a gambling problem are established, that the individual seeks immediate help for his or her problem.

The solutions, which include abstinence from gambling, professional help, and support groups, self-care, and lifestyle changes are most important in reclaiming ones’ life from a gambling addiction.

Let’s Talk About Your Gambling Problem: What is Compulsive Gambling Really all About?

Am I a compulsive gambler? What really is compulsive gambling? Is it an addiction like cocaine or heroin?

To truly understand compulsive gambling, you need to take a look at the brain. Simply put, there are a number of hormones that are released in the healthy brain that create endorphins that make you feel good. People who are prone to addiction have a deficiency of these hormones, or a chemical imbalance in the brain. For people with an imbalance in the brain, the “rush” that gambling creates actually mimics the release of these hormones in the brain, and makes the person feel good.

However, the feeling that gambling may produce in the brain, is not real, and it definitely is not permanent! The momentary ‘high’ that gambling produces will always result in a crash that will leave you feeling worse then when you started. In order to feel better, desperately, you will gamble again, and again. Only to be let down, over and over. Does this sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone!

Because compulsive gambling mimics a feel good feeling in the brain, it is very similar to other addictions. Just as with alcohol addictions and hard drugs such as cocaine, compulsive gambling is an addiction. But is the brain the only thing to blame when it comes to gambling? Of course not. There is more at work, than the physiology of the brain, but it is an important component.

Money is an important part of compulsive gambling; however it is not the only thing. Many people believe that gambling is all about winning money, and earning back what you have lost, but that’s not true at all. People who are addicted to gambling are addicted to the feeling that gambling provides. The thrill of winning, the feeling of power, of greatness! As was just explained, compulsive gambling is much more about a feeling than the money.

So if gambling is about a feeling, how is it that compulsive gambling is considered an addiction? Someone who has a gambling problem faces some of the same troubles as an individual with another, more identifiable addiction. The addict cannot stop gambling, despite the fact that they know they should, they live with broken lives, families falling apart and debt problems. Compulsive gamblers live in denial as they chase the big win trying to recapture the ‘high’ that they once felt gambling.

Compulsive gambling is a hidden addiction; it is not as easy to identify someone with a gambling problem as someone who is an alcoholic. So how do you spot someone with a gambling problem? How can you be sure if you or someone you love has a problem? And why is compulsive gambling really a problem? In the next email, I’ll outline symptoms to watch for in compulsive gambling.

Problem Gambling and Gambling Problems Come in Varying Degrees of Intensity and May Worsen

Problem Gambling and Gambling Problems Come in Varying Degrees of Intensity and May Worsen

Problem gambling, also known as compulsive gambling, is recognized as a disease or sickness. But not all people who have a that problem would be diagnosed as being compulsive gamblers. As with any behavior, the degree or severity of the behavior determines the clinical classification.

Therapists use different scales to assess a gambling behavior and base the therapy according to the assessment. Most therapists use DSM-IV or the South Oaks Gambling Screen for diagnosis.

Just having compulsive or pathological gambling recognized as a treatable disease was a major accomplishment for the therapists who treat those problems. For many years gambling was looked upon as a character flaw or weakness, but not a true disease. Now that it has been accepted that out of control gambling is a disease that may be treated effective methods are emerging.

One point that almost all clinicians agree on is that the best way to effectively treat the problem is to stop the gambling immediately. Some clinical studies have indicated that neuro transmitter deficiencies may be a cause of the problem and drug therapies are being tested while other forms of behavioral therapy, such as support groups and guided mediation or hypnosis are also showing some success.

If you are wondering if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, here is a checklist

that is used by clinicians to assess for pathological gambling …

“As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness.

Pathological gambling is now defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive behavior meeting at least five of the following criteria, as long as these behaviors are not better explained by a manic episode:

1.Preoccupation. The subject has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, whether past, future, or fantasy.

2. Tolerance. As with drug tolerance, the subject requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same “rush”.

3. Withdrawal. Restlessness or irritability associated with attempts to cease or reduce gambling.
4. Escape. The subject gambles to improve mood or escape problems.

5. Chasing. The subject tries to win back gambling losses with more gambling.

6. Lying. The subject tries to hide the extent of his or her gambling by lying to family, friends, or therapists.

7. Stealing in order to feed their gambling addiction.

8. Loss of control. The person has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce gambling.

9. Illegal acts. The person has broken the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses. This may include acts of theft, embezzlement, fraud, forgery, or bad checks.

10. Risked significant relationship. The person gambles despite risking or losing a relationship, job, or other significant opportunity.

11. Bailout. The person turns to family, friends, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling. “

(from wikipedia at Compulsive Gambling Pathological Gambling)

My own experience as a therapist has led me to believe that number 4. on the list hardly
qualifies as a gambling problem or an indication of a gambling problem since most people who
gamble recreationally do gamble to escape and have fun. On the other hand, the list is a good
place to start if you have concerns. Another suggestion is that you sit in on a meeting of
Gambler’s Anonymous and seek professional counseling. The sooner you address a
suspected gambling problem the sooner you can get it under control and stop the progression
of the illness.

When The Fun In Gambling Is No Longer Fun

Gambling is all fun and games until you hit the point where you cease seeing the fun in it, or you become irredeemably addicted.

Admittedly, most people do not see it coming. They start gambling for very noble reasons including,

1. The need to take time away from work and family pressures
2. Escape route from depressing thoughts on other issues.
3. Hopes of winning a fortune and living lavishly ever after
4. To bring a tinge of excitement into their otherwise dull lives
5. A chance to go out there, socialize and make new friends.

As you can see from the above points, no one anticipates that gambling will grow into the Frankenstein that now threatens to push them off the sanity cliff. A lot of people are able to keep their gambling under rein. They do it for fun, to pass some time and to socialize. Others lose it completely. They become slaves to online and offline gambling. It throws their lives off-balance. They start putting more time and money into gambling, and they gradually neglect other aspects of their lives.

At this point, problem gamblers look back at their lives and get surprised at how and when it happened. For a lot of people, the problem starts with a shift in mentality. A big loss or a big win, and you are hooked. You start gambling more money than you had planned to spend on gambling, you invest a lot of time in the casinos and before you know it, you are a slave to gambling. You can’t eat, sleep nor breathe without thinking gambling.

To help you understand how gambling addiction works, I have analyzed some of the most common factors that pull people deeper and deeper into addiction.

1. Illusion that You Can be in command of Chance
No one can control chance. It doesn’t favor anyone, smart or otherwise. Unfortunately many problem gamblers think that they can manage to overturn their luck on the tables through sheer power of the mind. They have this skewed illusion that they can win if only they can learn the tricks of the game. They spent hours on end in the casinos trying to perfect their game. They fail to acknowledge the fact that gambling is 100% chance and not something to be learned. There are no tricks and knowledge that will all of a suddenly overturn the tables to your favor.

2. The Lure of the Jackpot
Winning a few hands on the tables can make you feel unconquerable. Everyone loves winning, and science has proved that people remember their victories more than they remember their losses. Fortunately, or probably unfortunately in this case, new gamblers have what is commonly referred as ‘beginner’s luck’. They begin their gambling hobbies on the right foot. They become obsessed with the idea of winning the jackpot.

3. Faith of Changing Luck
In life, we are encouraged to get up after every fall. We will make it in the end. We will accomplish our goals if we do not quit. After all, who wants to quit while the gold vein could be just a few inches away. There is only one place where this advice does not apply. If your quests are governed by pure luck, there is very little chance that you will ever make it. The statistics are open for anyone who wants to take a look. Gambling only ends up in massive losses, debts and frayed social relationships. There is no better time to quit than now. Lady Luck will not smile at you anytime soon.

How To Know If You Are Addicted To Gambling
Although there are clear pointers that indicate you are going down the addiction lane, it can be extremely difficult to identify them if you do not know what they are. This is probably the saddest thing about addiction. We never know we are addicted until we take a step back and look at ourselves in hindsight, at which time the damage has already been done.

In this section, we will discuss the 5 major red flags to watch out for.

1. You Just Can’t Stop
Remember the wise Gambler who Kenny Rogers sings about? Every wise gambler knows when to hold and when to fold. Compulsive gamblers on the other hand do not have limits. They will gamble everything they have thinking that they are having bouts of fun, when in actuality they are driven by compulsions beyond their control.

2. Gambling with Money Not Meant for Fun
Problem gamblers will gamble with money that they can’t stand to lose. They do not have a set gambling budget and will often risk money meant for important things such medical bills and other utility bills.

3. Gambling to Win or to Recover Losses
If you find yourself gambling more for the sole purpose of hitting the jackpot than for fun, you need to reevaluate yourself. Same case applies if the main driving force behind gambling is to recover losses that you had suffered earlier.

4. Obsessively Thinking about Gambling
If you eat, drink and sleep thinking about gambling, you might already be too deep in the trench.

5. Borrowing to Finance Gambling
Have you ever borrowed money to finance gambling? Chances are if you have, things are not looking so good.

What other key pointers do you think indicate a problem with gambling? I believe that you know them better. You know what triggers that red flag and siren at the back of your mind. A lot of gamblers realize the symptoms that point to problematic gambling in their lives, yet stopping becomes a quagmire.