Problem gambling (or ludomania, usually referred to as “gambling addiction” or “compulsive gambling”) is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Pathological gamblers have lost the strength to resist gambling impulses and they just accept the advances made by gambling and head straight on for it.
It is very common for pathological gamblers to feel empty as the only thing of importance is gambling and nothing else appears to matter; it becomes that bad. Then they start feeling ashamed and drift gradually away from people because they can’t stand the sight of people realizing their problem.
It all starts small, and when an activity becomes a habit, the tendency of getting addicted sets in. So, the consistent action results in not wanting to stop and gradually; it’s hard to imagine life without it. Dr. Howard Samuels, PsyD. tells everyone that “Admitting you have a problem is the first step in treating your addiction. However, due to the nature and the danger of this disease, simply just stopping on your own is highly unadvisable.”
As explained by Jeremy Frank PhD CADC, a Philadelphia Psychologist & Addiction Counselor “Gambling addiction is often referred to as the “hidden illness” because there are no physical signs or symptoms that accompany it as is the case with many alcohol or drug abusers.” Pathological gambling is a disorder that is being understudied and also progressive; it is highly disabling too. It affects 2% – 3% of Americans and women make up one-quarter of all pathological gamblers. It has been found to be a result of the disorder of impulse control. According to www.medscape.com, “Prevalence estimates of pathological gambling have ranged from 0.77% to 3.4% in the US adult population”
It is very evident in males and comes in their early adult years but not very evident in females. Recently, it has become prevalent among females as they are now very much exposed to it and there’s increased accessibility to it.
Below are some of the signs that you’ll notice in people that are pathological gamblers:
- Anxiety: Always eager to gamble or get involved in gambling activities and then become placed under pressure.
- Depression: Always cut out from people and in constant thoughts about their losses.
- Gambling tolerance: They are able to tolerate a level and now seek a greater and higher challenge every time.
- Dishonesty: Lies surround their every word and the truth becomes far from them.
- Accumulated debts: They borrow constantly, heaping debts on already accumulated debts.
- Derailed Optimism: They believe that they will win but you never really truly see them win.
- Loss: Ranging from job to relationship to friendship. Pathological gamblers lose more than money, they lose a whole of things they once had.
- Crimes: When they get into debts, they resort to crimes to get the money they crave; and this leads them down the path of crime.
These and much more are the symptoms you’ll notice in pathological gamblers and at this point, they really need help but they will not easily move to get help and would continue to go deep down into their addiction till it’s either too late or till they get help.
Treatment/Care for PG
Though, PG can lead to suicide attempts and even suicide; it is worthy of note that it can be treated and those affected can be cared for. There is really no standardized treatment for pathological gambling, some means have been brought up and are effective for the treatment.
- Support groups: A very prevalent care for pathological gambling is found in meeting up with people that are also experiencing the problem and opening up so as to get charged to stop. A support group such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is a 12-step program that aims at helping people to overcome the addiction and live free of the addiction.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. (www.psychcentral.com)
- Medications: Studies have shown that medications can also treat PG but the study on the particular people that will respond to the treatment is still not accurate yet. It has been found that antidepressants and opioid antagonists (naltrexone) may help treat the symptoms of pathological gambling.
It is going to be very effective if two or more of these treatment types can be used as not one of them is 100% effective. It is never too late to treat PG, and before it becomes out of your power; take that step to help someone or take that step to get it solved. Remember, “Not everyone who gambles has a problem with it. It is important to determine whether or not the other person has an addiction.” Natalia S. David, PsyD said.