Stages of Gambling Addiction


What most gamblers do not realize or forget to realize is that they will never win in any form of gambling unless they quit. The mathematics of gambling shows that the odds are far greater than the chances of winning.

Your chances of winning are either through intensive research of the probabilities by factoring in the statistics of the past results, a lousy game by an opponent or by pure luck. “They gamble to reach the high. They gamble to escape emotional pain for hours, for days, until the money runs out. They quickly relish the winnings, investing nearly all of it back over the next days and weeks. They slowly destroy their lives. They get caught in the cycle.” Damon Dye, EdD, LMHC, NCGC II, BACC explains. 

It was just recently proven by science that people tend to be addicted to gambling the same way that they could also get addicted to drugs. The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery identified four stages of gambling addiction:

  1. Winning Stage

Addiction usually starts with beginner’s luck. You pull the lever of the slot machine for the first time, got three matches of the same figure and won a few dollars. The next thing you know, you’re pulling the levers of the rest of the slot machines hoping to win the jackpot. “Addiction is progressive and, like a shark, stays hungry and keeps moving.” Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT said.

The hook of gambling is it will give you a glimpse of winning to keep you betting. With every win, your brain releases a chemical messenger called dopamine that gives off a wave of satisfaction and pleasure, leaving you wanting more of that feeling.

  • Losing Stage

By the time your beginner’s luck starts to fade, then comes a series of losses. The money you won from your first wins are now gone. Worse, you’re in for a huge amount of debt.

“A person who has a gambling addiction is a person who is unable to regulate their gambling. They spend more money and more time on gambling than they originally intended.”  Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC said. At this stage, gamblers still believe they could win back their losses. Hence, they would do anything to get as much money as they could to support their gambling addiction. They think that if they bet higher, they would win back most of their losses.

Their anxiety to win back their money leads them to multiple loans from friends and family and lying about where they are taking the money.

  • Desperation Stage

At this stage, gamblers totally lose control of their addiction and their need to get their fix. Even though they are well-aware of the repercussions of their actions, they cannot stop themselves from going to the casino.

They would not think twice about putting their properties on the mortgage, betting their cars, and losing every single penny that they have. Some even commit criminal offenses such as theft, fraud, and even murder just to have the money to pay off their debts.

  • Hopeless Stage

This is the stage where most of the gamblers commit suicide. By the time they lost their properties, their friends and families, their careers, and everything that there is to lose, they become hopeless.

Their families who were once there for them are now gone and fed up with the multiple lies that they have been subjected to. Losing their support system now, when they need help more than ever, leads to greater anxiety and even into depression.

They turn to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, worsening their state. Only until someone helps them get up and make them realize all their mistakes could they go to the recovery stage of gambling addiction.

If you know someone who is experiencing at least one of these stages, make sure to approach them and lend a hand with their problem. There are several options to help someone with gambling addiction.

You can refer them to a mental health professional or even direct them to online counseling services. Whatever it the most convenient, let them know that you’ll be there through every step of the recovery.

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