Signs Of Pathological Gambling

Learn to recognize the signs of pathological gambling and the options to help treat it.

Gambling, whether at casinos, bars, or other venues, is a fairly common social behavior among adults. But it is important to recognize warning signs of Pathological Gambling, or impulsive gambling, so you can protect yourself and your loved ones from this psychological disease.

Pathological gambling can affect any income, race, age, or gender, but the typical gambler is male, white, 40-50 years old, and middle to upper-class. Pathological gambling usually begins as early as during adolescence though, and isn't generally noticed by their peers until later in life. Also, a third of all pathological gamblers are women, and their gambling addiction is generally begins as an emotional response to an event such as the failure of a relationship.

There are four levels or phases of pathological gambling behavior. The first is the winning phase, where the gambler recognizes how good a winning streak feels and is encouraged to continue.

The second is the losing phase, where money begins to be lost, but the gambler continues to try to "chase the loss" by gambling more often. This is the phase in which the gambler begins to be superstitious while gambling, such as blowing on the dice before a toss.

The third phase is the desperate phase. The gambler begins to have trouble coming up with enough money to continue his habit. He will then resort to sometimes illegal behavior in order to obtain more money. Each time he commits an illegal or uncharacteristic act for more money, he rationalizes his behavior to himself, and it becomes easier and easier to do it again. Two-thirds of impulsive gamblers reach this stage.

The fourth is the hopeless stage, where the gambler sees where his habit has taken him and sees no way to recover. There is an increased risk of suicide and stress-related illness in this stage.

One interesting fact to note is that 75% of gamblers also have some sort of mood disorder, whether diagnosed or not, and 50% have problems with substance abuse. This connection between gambling and substance abuse may be related to the fact that alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes it easier to gamble more often and wager more per bet.

Here are some symptoms to look out for. You or your loved one may:

* Gamble or think about gambling every day

* Go to casinos or other gambling venues alone

* Stay longer at casinos than anticipated

* Start to spend more time gambling than other favorite activities

* Lose time from work and/or school due to gambling (by taking long lunches, abusing sick days or holidays, coming in late or leaving early)

* Argue with family or friends over money matters

* Begin to lie about the frequency of gambling

* Feel depressed

* Resort to criminal behavior to support habit

* Begin to have severe family problems

* Borrow money from friends or coworkers to gamble with

* Gamble to hide or escape from problems

* Increase amount of money wagered to keep the "rush"

* Have legal, marital, and/or occupational problems

Luckily, impulsive gambling is very treatable. Here are some ideas. Be aware that because of the high co-morbidity rate between gambling and substance abuse or mood disorders, you may also need to treat these underlying factors in order to effectively treat the impulsive gambling. Try going to counseling to raise your ability to manage yourself. You may find that taking Prozac or some other prescription mood-enhancing drug helps. Also, avoid the casino or any other venue that offers gambling. Keep a journal so you know what triggers your desire to gamble, whether it be stress, boredom, etc. And finally, try to manage stress by exercising regularly and finding ways to relax.

Gambling can be a fun pastime. Just remember to pay attention to signs that it might become a disease, and if it does, take the time and effort to treat it.

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