Gambling Addiction is a progressive disorder causing disruptions in every area of a person’s life – psychological, physical, social, and vocational.
An individual who is suffering from Gambling Disorder presents a persistent, maladaptive pattern of gambling related behavior that disrupts personal, family, or vocational pursuits. It is defined as any time a person wagers something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome.
Gambling can be considered an addiction when a person continues to participate in their betting activities even when they are facing consequences in their life. It was first recognized as a diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in their publication of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- Compulsive Gambling is referred to as the “hidden disease” because there are no physical symptoms like with substance-based addictions.
- The effects of Gambling Addiction can be as devastating as alcohol or drug addictions, and can result in both financial and personal destruction. Unlike with substance abuse issues, there is no saturation point, which means a person can continue to embrace the addiction as long as the money or credit is available.
Action Gamblers and Escape Gamblers
Compulsive gamblers fall into two main types – action and escape. Both suffer at the core from similar problems such as depression, anxiety, financial difficulty, family stress, and more. However, the way they use gambling to meet their psychological needs can be vastly different.
Action gamblers outwardly tend to appear egotistical, controlling, successful, and outgoing. They gamble primarily because they believe they can become skillful enough to beat the odds. They tend to play games of “skill” such as poker, dice, or betting on races or sports.
Escape gamblers differ in that they often gamble to escape from problems, feeling they can free themselves from pain while gambling. They are normally described as responsible, caring, and nurturing. These players tend to use slot machines, video poker, bingo, or the lottery to fulfill their gambling urges.
Regardless of the player type, each problem can progress at different speeds, with some developing a problem in days, and others feeling fine for years. Once you lose the ability to set limits and walk away, you may become at risk for creating huge problems by continuing to gamble.
How Gambling Disorder is Diagnosed
Gambling Addiction has a set of criteria used by treatment professionals to identify problems cause by compulsive gambling, as well as identify appropriate ways to begin treatment.
Today, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines Gambling Disorder as a Non-Substance based Addictive Disorder. The following 9 criteria are used by mental health professionals to identify the presence of gambling as a clinical issue:
- Tolerance: Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
- Withdrawal: Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
- Relapse: Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
- Preoccupation: Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
- Escape: Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
- Chasing: After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even.
- Lying to Loved Ones: Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
- Risking Relationships: Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
- Bailouts/Relying on Others for Money: Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.
If you have experienced more than one of these in the past 12 months, it may be helpful to contact the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine to receive resources and additional information. Not sure if you should contact the HelpLine? Take our quick Self-Assessment Quiz.
Recovery is Possible. Treatment is Available.
It all starts with the first (but not necessarily the last) completely free and confidential contact to the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine. Floridians at all stages of the recovery process make contact every day to get connected to proven resources tailored to their specific situations. When it comes to problem gambling, it’s never too soon or too late to begin the journey to recovery. Worried about your gambling or a loved one’s? Contact 888-ADMIT-IT today.