Problem Gambling: What is gambling addiction?

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

gambling addiction, playing cardsProblem Gambling is an addictive behavior that affects people from all backgrounds, damages relationships, destroys families, can lead to devastating financial consequences, and often contributes to the person struggling with problem gambling to participate in other self-destructive behavior or find themselves with co-addictions.

Just like drug and alcohol addiction, a person who struggles with problem gambling is struggling with the disease of addiction. What may begin as a seemingly harmless recreational activity enjoyed by many, can escalate into full-blown addiction for some.

While many people can relate to the adrenaline rush and emotional nudge to play “just once more” in an attempt to win back lost money, most people are able to quit playing before gambling becomes out of control.

This is no different from the ability to stop after a few drinks or limiting binge drinking to vacations and holidays. Someone who isn’t an alcoholic can put down a glass without thinking about her next drink. Someone who isn’t a problem gambler can play a round of poker with his friends or bet on March Madness without letting the anticipation of the next game take over his life.

Problem gambling behavior causes psychological, physical, social, and work-related disruptions. The behavior is compulsively driven, meaning it is often against the person’s will, rationality, or better judgment.

Problem gambling is also pathological, meaning that it is recognized and diagnosed as a true disease, like alcohol and drug addiction. People struggling with this disease tend to progress by becoming increasingly preoccupied, irritable and restless with the desire to bet more frequently and greater amounts at higher stakes.

Even with serious mounting negative consequences, problem gamblers continue to “chase losses” rather than seek treatment. They can find themselves in legal trouble and threatened by criminal elements.

If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, you can find more information, including an assessment questionnaire and helpline,  here on the National Council for Problem Gambling website.

Recovery Management Agency works with addicts and families struggling with problem gambling to serve as an advocate and guide through the recovery process. Learn more about our services here.

Photo credit:
“Gambling Addiction” by Benjamin Watson
http://www.flickr.com/

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