Gambling Addiction

1 January 2017

While it may appear that addictions are solely pleasure-seeking behaviors, the roots of addiction can also be traced to a wish to suppress or avoid some kind of emotional pain. In the broadest sense, addictive or pathological gambling is gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational. Addictive gambling is sometimes referred to as the “hidden illness,” because there are no visible physical symptoms.

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The American Psychological Association classifies compulsive gambling as a mental health disorder of impulse control. It is a chronic and progressive disease that is both diagnosable and treatable. About 2 to 4 percent of Americans have an active gambling problem. Compulsive gambling can be categorized into two types: action gambling and escape gambling. * In action gambling, the gambler is addicted to the thrill of risk-taking as his or her substance of choice, much in the same way that a cocaine addict is hooked on cocaine.

The action itself becomes the drug. Action gamblers typically engage in games with other players, since part of the adrenaline rush is in the appearance or identity as a winner. * Escape gambling occurs when the gambler seeks to blot out some discomforting feelings or emotional life crisis. The action of gambling is secondary to the numbing effect of the activity. Escape gamblers prefer more singular outlets such as slot machines, where they can avoid human contact. Men tend more towards action gambling, and women tend to become escape gamblers.

It is significant to note that teens are about three times more likely to become pathological gamblers than adults. This is the reverse of the case in most addictions, where the problem among adults is statistically more prevalent than among children and teens. For this reason, early education about the dangers of gambling addiction and information on how to get help for the problem is vital for preventing the disease. Problem and pathological gamblers across age groups also use tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs more often than do other groups. What are the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction?

Sadly, children are negatively affected by gambling addiction in several ways. Physical and emotional abandonment is a very real phenomenon. ‘Casino kids’ are left in cars or on the periphery of the gambling action while their parents gamble, or may spend hours with babysitters, thus missing the nurturing they need. Children of pathological gamblers are typically abused verbally, mentally and physically by the gambler, and often even more so by the co-dependent spouse. Finally, these children are much more likely to develop gambling addiction than their peers.

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