Gambling has taken over

Casino is a complete world. There aren’t clocks or windows. But there are flashing light and the sound of slot machines whirling and clacking. People are also captivated by the craps table. With the televised Texas hold ’em tournaments, poker has reached new heights. Gamblers view this as excitement, recreation or a way to escape the mundane and beat the odds. The rest, around three percent, are addicted to it. It is an insatiable roller coaster of thrills and despair.

An addiction of any type is characterized by a series of bad behaviors that lead to a wide range of negative consequences. Pathological gambling may not be the most severe case. Compulsive gamblers are often unable to manage their finances or have good relationships. His or Her life could be in turmoil.

The compulsive gambler often believes that the next round will save him. If the numbers match, the money or credit is “invested” once again. Gambling addiction has not been a new development. However, the introduction of electronic poker, the breakneck speed of today’s slot machines, and Internet gambling have actually sped-up the time it takes gamble for fun.

Like other addictions and gambling disorders, pathological gambling can be both a mental and a biological problem. While we don’t know all of the causes of gambling addiction, it is common to include psychological, family, or social elements. We know that brain neuropathways are involved in the perception of rewarding events. Gambling can be an addictive form of emotional escape.

We have seen around 15-20% of those who are suffering from cross-addictionive disorders such as drug dependency or alcoholism. Some estimates suggest that as many as 35 percent have experienced substance abuse, dependence, and met the criteria to be diagnosed with pathological gambling. The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), is a psychosocial diagnostic tool used to diagnose a gambling problem.

Both substance and gambling addictions are progressive diseases. It can lead to inability to control impulses (to gamble and to use), anxiety, mood swings, depression, and the craving for instant gratification. Gambling is similar to chemical dependency. It offers euphoric thrills, but they are often followed by sadness, remorse, and shame. One major difference between substance addiction and gambling is that the alcoholic/drug addict doesn’t believe that substance is the answer for his problems. The compulsive gambler believes he will win the Big Win.

Gambling addictions can cause symptoms such as hopelessness, blackouts, and sleep disorders. Compulsive gamblers can also lead to serious problems such as divorce, relationships, work issues, and even arrests. The person’s health, including any medical conditions, is often neglected. Gambling addiction is definitely a family disease. It can cause dysfunction in the family system. Children can become emotionally and physically neglected. Studies have shown that 35 to 50 percent of the children of pathological gambling parents eventually experience gambling problems.

It is essential that chemical and gambling addictions are treated in the same way. Gambling addiction can be treated in holistic, 12-step-based treatment. Treatment is personalized and takes into account gender and age.

Betting: Is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur (St. John’s University NY), who co-authored SOGS screening assessments, believe that it’sn’t about money. But money can be a looming concern. Many find that the key motivator is to get involved. It is possible to feel the same high as when you are taking cocaine while in action. To describe the process of trying to win back gambling losses, a habitual gambler uses the term “Chasing loses”. The action gambler likes to gamble online, at a casino, track, or in any other “live” venue. Casinos often identify them as “high rollers”, and they receive meals and comps. Others don’t gamble so much for the action but rather to distract themselves with compulsive betting, which can be a temporary and satisfying escape.

University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published an evaluation of gamblers in 2002. The study found significant differences in the treatment of pathological gamblers based on their age and gender. Older gamblers (aged 36-55 years) were more likely than younger ones (18-35 years) to include women. The majority of older and middle-aged women did not start to gamble regularly before the age 55. However, older men said they had a history of gambling for their entire lives. Surprisingly, most women bet the largest amounts in the months before they were treated. The majority of problems experienced by younger gamblers are related to substance abuse, legal, and social issues. Older gamblers have more employment-related difficulties.

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