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The development of a gambling problem

Gambling usually begins as an innocent pleasure, and sadly for some leads to addictive gambling which has disastrous consequences for the problem gambler and his/her family.

Although gambling does not produce the cognitive or physical impairment associated with alcohol or drug abuse, an obsession with gambling can be just as devastating.  Problem gambling can destroy social, personal and occupational or educational performance.  Similarly to other types of addiction it produces symptoms of withdrawal, tolerance, heightened excitement or euphoria.

hases of Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gamblers go through the following four phases:

Phase 1: Winning phase

  • more common in “action seekers” (usually men) than escape gamblers (usually women)
  • initially occasional gambling followed by more frequent gambling
  • big win
  • increasing bet amount
  • unreasonable optimism—feeling of omnipotence
  • big shot—brags about winning while minimizing losses
  • lasts months to years

Phase 2: Losing phase (“the chase”)

  • often begins with unpredictable losing streak
  • can’t stop gambling (“chasing”)
  • borrows money (bailouts)
  • covering-up, lying
  • home and work life affected
  • spouse, even if aware of gambling, usually unaware of extent of debt incurred
  • personality changes—irritable, restless and withdrawn

Phase 3: Desperation phase

  • often begins with gambling away funds from a bailout that were supposed to pay debts
  • options decrease
  • illegal or immoral acts (e.g., fraud, embezzlement, writing bad checks)
  • reputation affected
  • alienation from family and friends
  • most common time for seeking help — “hitting bottom”

Phase 4: Helplessness

  • suicide thoughts and attempts (15 to 25 percent prevalence rate of suicide)
  • major depression
  • co-morbid substance abuse
  • divorce
  • emotional breakdown
  • arrests

Read the original post http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/an-introduction-to-compulsive-gambling/

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