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.