A compulsive gambling addiction is a behavioral addiction and a progressive illness that affects not only the problem gambler but their family, friends, and co-workers as well. Compulsive or pathological gambling is recognized as an impulse control disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
Signs and symptoms of gambling addiction include:
- Gambling for a longer period of time than initially planned
- Continuing to Gamble when one’s financial goals/acceptable losses have been met
- Gambling any time there are available funds
- Going out of one’s way to acquire funds to gamble
- Neglecting important issues/people to gamble
- Gambling with funds set aside for important issues/events
- Borrowing funds for gambling
- Engaging in illegal activity in order to acquire funds for gambling
- Gambling as a form of escape from important issues
- Unsuccessfully attempting to reduce the amount of time/money spent gambling
- Experiencing Restlessness and/or irritability when attempting to reduce the amount of time/money spent gambling
- Lying about the amount of time/money spent gambling
Effects of Gambling Addiction
A compulsive gambling addiction can have many adverse effects on an individual and those close to him or her. In addition to the financial burdens created by the habit, compulsive gamblers tend to exhibit additional behavioral addictions, mental/mood disorders, and problems with substance abuse; compulsive gambling is also commonly associated with an increased risk of attempting to commit suicide. Family members of a compulsive gambler are often affected adversely by the financial instability of the individual, as well as many of the common disorders and risks to which the gambler is predisposed. For example, if a parent happens to be the compulsive gambler in the family, the financial stability of the entire family is put at risk; other members of the family may be subjected to manipulation, neglect, mood swings, commonly associated disorders/compulsions, and an increased risk of the gambler attempting to commit suicide.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
Common treatment for pathological gamblers includes twelve-step programs, self-help, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and possibly medication. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved any medication for the treatment of gambling addiction. Gamblers Anonymous is a popular twelve-step oriented program with meetings all over the world; many have recovered through twelve-step programs, though it is advisable to enroll in some type of therapeutic treatment in addition. In severe cases, especially those involving a mental/mood disorder or substance abuse problem, an in-patient facility may be the best option. Rehabilitation centers are often the best choice. However, if the individual in question has severe mental/co-occurring disorders, hospitalization may be necessary.