Compulsive Gambling

Many people enjoy gambling once in a while. However, the difference between social gambling and compulsive (pathological) gambling is like the difference between social drinking and alcoholism. Compulsive gambling like alcoholism is an addiction. And like alcoholism, excessive gambling can ruin the life of the gambler as well as the lives of the gambler's family.

Compulsive gamblers are unable to control their chronic gambling. Compulsive gamblers develop an emotional dependency and are often impulsive, obsessive, and irrational when it comes to their gambling. They gamble because they cannot resist the constant repetition of the exciting tension that gambling provides, whether or not they gain anything from taking the risk.

People who become compulsive gamblers are risk takers, often highly competitive, energetic, easily bored people. They may be very dependent on the approval of other people. As a compulsive gamblers disorder progresses, they will gamble against all odds. For a compulsive gambler to roll the dice, pick a number or play a hand becomes more important than family, home or work.

Not all people who gamble are addicted. Those whose gambling develops into an addiction often display some of the following characteristics:

  • Spend a lot of time gambling or thinking about it.
  • Fails to stop or cut back on gambling.
  • Tries to make up money lost in gambling, by gambling.
  • Lies to people about how much time is spent gambling.
  • Has committed illegal acts to get money to gamble.
  • Has ruined a relationship, job, or school career with gambling.
  • Tries to get other people to cover financial problems caused by gambling.
  • Have frequent or unexplained absences?
  • Experience mood swings-high when winning, low when losing.
  • Keep hidden funds or take out secret "loans" from family bank accounts.
  • Compulsive gambling can devastate marriages, family life, and friendships. As the compulsive gambler's obsession with gambling increases, the gamblerís spouse and children are often left feeling abandoned. When gambling becomes more important than the gamblers loved ones, their families can unravel.

    As the disease progresses, the gambler's work life also suffers. To the gambler work begins to interfere with gambling. The gambler is often late to work, takes long lunches, uses the phone excessively, or reads sports literature while working. These behaviors are characteristic of the compulsive gambler. All are symptoms of the gambler's compulsive, uncontrolled pursuit of the big gamble.

    Compulsive gambling is a treatable addiction. Compulsive gamblers don't have to let gambling ruin their lives. Once recognized, compulsive gambling treatment is available from several sources. The State of West Virginia provides a 24-hour hotline (1-888-GAMBLER) to assist those seeking help. In addition there are other resources such as recovery programs, self-help groups (such as Gamblers Anonymous), and special counseling for gamblers -- and for concerned others -- to help turn their lives around and to change the downward spiral of compulsive gambling.