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. 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?
The American Psychological Association reports ten diagnostic criteria, for determining the extent of gambling addiction. These criteria are: * Preoccupation - Preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money to gamble) * Tolerance - Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement * Withdrawal - Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling * Escape - Gambles as a way of escaping from problems or relieving dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression) * Chasing - After losing money gambling, often returns another day in order to get even ("chasing one's losses"). Chasing is a classical behavior pattern characterizing pathological gambling. * Lying - Lies to family members, therapists or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling * Illegal acts - Has committed illegal acts (e.g., forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement) in order to finance gambling * Risked significant relationship - Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job or educational or career opportunity because of gambling * Bailout - Has relied on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling * Loss of control - Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling * Five or more of these signs = pathological gambler
* Three or four = problem gambler
* One or two = at risk gambler
Another way of assessing whether or not you have an addiction to gambling is to ask yourself the following twenty questions, provided by the self-help organization...