Gambling Addiction and Its Behavioral Effects

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health disorder, which can be identified in two ways: a person either a) continuously bet on things using money or objects that hold value even though negative consequences arise as a result, or, b) they cannot stop gambling even if they desired to. People suffering from gambling addiction often display a strong urge to bet on a wide-range of gambling mediums-from sports games to poker, to choosing lottery numbers and throwing dice. And although friends and family members of compulsive gamblers don’t see the symptoms physically, like they often do with alcoholics or drug abusers, the consequences gambling addiction has serious implications on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and families. Not realizing its severity or taking it too lightly can be devastating for the addicted gambler in the long run. Gamblers can reach a point of literally losing everything, from cars, to homes, to businesses, and even respect from those they care about.

It’s well-known that Florida is notorious for providing “the hotspot” for gamblers all over the world, as well as its residents. But how many gamblers actually endure financial problems? A recent survey by the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling shed light on card playing, reporting that 70% of these people had trouble paying their bills. But here’s the worst part, which is known to be a side-effect of excessive gambling–1 in 3 of these card players admitted to having participated in illicit activities in order to finance their gambling. Playing cards isn’t as harmless as we thought; criminal activity is still a cause for concern.

Gambling addicts are not always obvious about their situation; sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves. They don’t dwell on what has been lost as a result of their destructive activities and behaviors. Instead, compulsive gamblers only focus on the gains, or the supposed investment aspect of the games they play. And unlike drug or alcohol addiction, a person addicted to gambling will not display symptoms such as heavy fatigue, sickness, loss of energy or dizziness; instead, other factors are apparent, such as falling into deep financial trouble, losing quality time with the ones they love, and heightening the chances of entering into drug or alcohol addiction.

It’s difficult to establish who has a gambling problem and who doesn’t. Where is the threshold between social gamblers, and abusive gamblers? Are there any red flags? The answer is yes. Pathological gamblers often display one or more of the following signs: negligent of family get-togethers, acts on criminal behavior in order to acquire more stuff to bet on, would rather gamble then hang out with friends, talk excessively about gambling and winning money, use drugs or alcohol to distract them from wanting to gamble more, become irritated when not gambling, neglect vital responsibilities for gambling time, and lying to family and friends about going out gambling. A combination of these signs should be a red flag when identifying a compulsive gambler. But remember, none of these signs mention the amount of times a person gambles in a period of time. It’s not about “quantity.” A person can gamble every day and it may not affect his life. Also, gambling addiction isn’t OK if you’re wealthy; rich gamblers can still have issues like neglecting their loved ones and other vital responsibilities.

Florida is well-known for its casinos, entertainment arenas and cruise ship gambling. But environmental factors such as these may cause people to be more susceptible to the development of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction isn’t a problem that stands alone-it may lead to criminal behavior, psychological distress and depression, and fuel other more dangerous addictions. As stated earlier, a person may fall into drug or alcohol addiction in order to supplement or replace their gambling behavior. The combination of multiple addictions can be devastating and more difficult to treat; it would be like tangling a web of loose strings and trying to unravel them all at once.

Addiction specialists and counselors use a variety of methods in treating gambling addiction effectively, including: helping the addict understand what drives him or her to gamble, replacing their betting habits with more productive activities, understanding how it affects the people they care about, and finally, strengthening one’s will to live a more productive lifestyle. If you notice warning signs that you or your loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, it is crucial to intervene and find treatment before it is too late. Doctors treat gambling addiction as a serious brain disease, and people suffering from it are also prone to drug addiction. The importance of acquiring immediate treatment can be the difference between losing everything, and saving someone’s life.

Problem Gambling and Gambling Problems Come in Varying Degrees of Intensity and May Worsen

Problem Gambling and Gambling Problems Come in Varying Degrees of Intensity and May Worsen

Problem gambling, also known as compulsive gambling, is recognized as a disease or sickness. But not all people who have a that problem would be diagnosed as being compulsive gamblers. As with any behavior, the degree or severity of the behavior determines the clinical classification.

Therapists use different scales to assess a gambling behavior and base the therapy according to the assessment. Most therapists use DSM-IV or the South Oaks Gambling Screen for diagnosis.

Just having compulsive or pathological gambling recognized as a treatable disease was a major accomplishment for the therapists who treat those problems. For many years gambling was looked upon as a character flaw or weakness, but not a true disease. Now that it has been accepted that out of control gambling is a disease that may be treated effective methods are emerging.

One point that almost all clinicians agree on is that the best way to effectively treat the problem is to stop the gambling immediately. Some clinical studies have indicated that neuro transmitter deficiencies may be a cause of the problem and drug therapies are being tested while other forms of behavioral therapy, such as support groups and guided mediation or hypnosis are also showing some success.

If you are wondering if you or someone you know has a gambling problem, here is a checklist

that is used by clinicians to assess for pathological gambling …

“As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness.

Pathological gambling is now defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive behavior meeting at least five of the following criteria, as long as these behaviors are not better explained by a manic episode:

1.Preoccupation. The subject has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, whether past, future, or fantasy.

2. Tolerance. As with drug tolerance, the subject requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same “rush”.

3. Withdrawal. Restlessness or irritability associated with attempts to cease or reduce gambling.
4. Escape. The subject gambles to improve mood or escape problems.

5. Chasing. The subject tries to win back gambling losses with more gambling.

6. Lying. The subject tries to hide the extent of his or her gambling by lying to family, friends, or therapists.

7. Stealing in order to feed their gambling addiction.

8. Loss of control. The person has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce gambling.

9. Illegal acts. The person has broken the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses. This may include acts of theft, embezzlement, fraud, forgery, or bad checks.

10. Risked significant relationship. The person gambles despite risking or losing a relationship, job, or other significant opportunity.

11. Bailout. The person turns to family, friends, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling. ”

(from wikipedia at Compulsive Gambling Pathological Gambling)

My own experience as a therapist has led me to believe that number 4. on the list hardly
qualifies as a gambling problem or an indication of a gambling problem since most people who
gamble recreationally do gamble to escape and have fun. On the other hand, the list is a good
place to start if you have concerns. Another suggestion is that you sit in on a meeting of
Gambler’s Anonymous and seek professional counseling. The sooner you address a
suspected gambling problem the sooner you can get it under control and stop the progression
of the illness.

US Gambling in the Midst of UIGEA

Online gambling in United States is endangered with the passing of the UIGEA or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It was enforced in 2007 and since then it has dramatically curtailed the online gambler population. Many gambling websites have already stopped operating and many online gamblers have controlled their urge to gamble for the fear of being caught.

Such scare continued to linger despite the efforts to assure people. A few online gambling sites offer gambling system in roulette in which the prizes double with succeeding loss. This martingale system aims to attract more players. Many people aren’t aware of this prohibition and so aren’t familiar with its specifics. This led to false notions, and because of that, information campaign regarding UIGEA has become necessary.

Gambling Sanction

The major implication of UIGEA is to prevent operation of online gambling sites, thereby, preventing players to gamble. This is a US law and is being enacted in two ways. First, it compels legal operations of gambling sites through qualification assessment and issuance of gambling license as administered by Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which will oversee the legalities of operations. Second, other games shall be reclassified and redefined for delineation; hence, games like chess, roulette, and poker shall be removed from the UIGEA scope.

UIGEA does have a good result-security in gambling for US players. Since it tracks down different online gambling sites, it is almost impossible for them to run away, supposing they commit crimes. The main issue is that the UIGEA stirred the industry drastically. A more pressing situation is its ineffective enforcement. The irregularity in enforcement made UIGEA a culprit of setbacks in the online gambling world, no less.

General Picture

UIGEA is so inefficiently enforced that it has become a culprit of profound problems encountered in online gambling today. The issue has a lot to do with the shareholders who invested funds in gambling sites. Because of the impending prohibition of gambling, many shareholders withdrew their shares from online gambling sites because of fear of bankruptcy. This slump causes many gambling websites to shut down operations. As more sites closed, people began to believe that it was going to be the end of online gambling in the United States. Many of these online venues lay the blame on UIGEA for their closure and non-operation. What was supposed to safeguard the gambling market lead to its near demise.

This ineffective enforcement of UIGEA also caused another repercussion. As it is not implemented in some states, there is confusion across the country as to the scope of this law, whether it aims to ban gambling and ban citizens to gamble online or not. Nevertheless, UIGEA does not necessarily prohibit American players to join online gambling websites. But some states did not understand the bill correctly. So many of the US gamers have now succumbed to the idea that they could no longer enjoy gambling online. Despite the number of states allowing gambling, the anxiety in the whole country is very real. As you can see the truth, the nation’s opinion regarding gambling is not in unison. And up to the time that UIGEA continues to be in partial implementation, this nationwide confusion goes on.