It is often mistakenly assumed that compulsive gambling is not a real addictive disorder – that since the individual who is repeatedly placing bets is not consuming a potentially lethal chemical substance, this ‘disorder’ poses no valid threat. In truth, compulsive gambling has ruined thousands of lives since staking wagers first came about (the early colonial period). Gambling addiction, known medically as an impulse control disorder, has been repeatedly proven to wreak just as much havoc in the lives of sufferers as many substance dependency disorders. While physical consequences may not be comparable, the emotional and mental torment of this behavioral addiction has been known to completely devastate the addict, resulting in lasting and severe consequences in many areas of life.
Interpersonal relationships will be harshly compromised, financial security will likely be demolished, and psychological health will be confounded by an overwhelming compulsion to raise the stakes.
Like other addictive disorders, those that suffer from gambling addiction will experience clearly defined symptoms, a progressively increasing tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms upon an abrupt discontinuation of the damaging behavior. Of course, these symptoms are more psychological than physical – but they can lead to lasting physical consequences, such as heart attack, stroke, and other stress-related disorders. It is also extremely common for those with pathological gambling problems to find themselves in such a helpless state of mind that suicide seems a viable option. Gambling addicts are three times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are not afflicted with this specific disorder. Pathological gamblers account for 5 percent of all suicides nationwide.
Gambling Addiction Facts
- The likelihood of developing a compulsive gambling disorder is increased 23-fold amongst men and women who suffer from an alcohol abuse disorder.
- Between 3 and 5 gamblers out of every 100 gamblers struggles with an addictive gambling disorder.
- It is estimated that roughly 80 percent of adult Americans gamble on an annual basis.
- It is estimated that nearly 750,000 young Americans, aged 14 to 21, suffers from a severe addictive gambling disorder.
- 40 percent of all gambling addicts began gambling before the age of 17.
- 75 percent of college students admitted to gambling within the past year.
- Young adults in college settings are twice as likely to develop addictive gambling problems than members of any other demographic.
- It is currently estimated that roughly 7 percent of all American college students struggle with gambling addiction.
- Roughly 50 percent of gambling addicts will commit crimes in order to support their addiction.
Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
If you believe that you or someone you love may be afflicted with a gambling addiction, there are several signs and symptoms to look for that may help you confirm this fact.
- Getting a thrill (a euphoric rush of adrenaline) while taking big gambling-related risks.
- A preoccupation with gambling (thinking about gambling often).
- Taking time away from interpersonal relationships, work, or previously enjoyed activities in order to spend more time gambling.
- Lying to others about the extent of and frequency of gambling.
- Borrowing money in order to gamble more (and lying about where that money is going).
- Intense feelings of guilt or remorse after gambling.
- Continuing to gamble as a way to cope with or escape from feelings of remorse, depression, or hopelessness.
- Attempting to cut back on gambling, but being unable to do so.
- Reliving past gambling wins.
The National Council on Problem Gambling (also known as the NCPG) recently reported that the annual cost of problem gambling (including related issues such as bankruptcy, crime, and addiction treatment) comes out to roughly $17 billion annually. Millions of men and women gamble with impunity on a daily basis. This age-old pastime provides a thrill to many, and cities such as Las Vegas, Nevada have built their thriving economies on foundations of a little short-term, high-risk fun. Those who are afflicted with compulsive gambling disorders likely gambled for quite some time with no serious consequences. Life stresses, predisposition to certain psychological disorders, and more frequent gambling can all work together in turning initial problem gambling to something far more critical.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
While the physical repercussions of this diagnosable impulse control disorder may not be as outwardly apparent (or nearly as severe) as symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, it is clear that compulsive gambling is a very real condition, and that those afflicted are often in dire need of intensive professional help. Because gambling addiction so frequently goes hand-in-hand with other disorders – such as drug addiction, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety disorders – comprehensive and long-term dual diagnosis treatment is often vital. For more information on gambling addiction recovery, please contact us today.