Gambling: A Hidden Addiction

There is an epidemic of gamblers in the US, who have become trapped into an endless cycle where they attempt to win back money they have lost. What many may not realize is not only an addiction, but it is associated with many negative health behaviors. In an article in the American Journal of Family Practice, the authors cite that “…depression, drinking and taking drugs often go along with pathologic gambling and that they are more likely to commit suicide.”They also report that about 75% of all pathologic gamblers have been depressed at least once in their lifetimes and 25% have recurrent episodes of depression. The authors also report that Las Vegas and Atlantic Cityhave some of the highest suicide rates in the US.

Many addiction experts believe that pathologic gambling is an addiction and that there are specific personality types that are more likely to succumb to addictive properties of gambling. This personality would include business people who like to take risks as well as physicians, lawyers, and the like.

The diagnosis of pathological gambler includes the following criteria (according to the major psychiatric source, the DSM: diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, one has to meet 5 of the 10 following criteria)

– Preoccupation with gambling (i.e. preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).

– Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.

– Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling.

– Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.

– Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (i.e. feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression).

– After losing money while gambling, often returns another day to get even (a.ka. chasing one’s losses).

– Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.

– Has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance gambling.

– Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity because of gambling.

– Relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

For help, one should call the National Council on Problem
Gambling at 1-800-522-4700; also can check out the website:

Gamblers Anonymous can be reached by calling: 213-386-8789
in order to find a local group.

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