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January 5, 2012

Gambling Addiction: The Hidden Illness

Compulsive gambling is an illness that often gets worse over time. And while it can't be cured, it can be managed. Unlike drug or alcohol addictions, gambling addiction, or compulsive gambling, is a behavioral addiction called an "impulse-control disorder." In other words, people who have a gambling problem can't control their impulse, or urge, to gamble even when they know that their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. People with gambling problems become more and more preoccupied with gambling until it's all they can think about. They might gamble online at the office when they're supposed to be working; or skip out on work altogether to hit the casino or racetrack. It carries into their home life, and can put a huge wall between them and their loved ones. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they're up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can't afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can't "stay off the bet." Compulsive gamblers often go after increasingly bigger wins and higher stakes, as that raises the level of the thrill. Sometimes, though, compulsive gamblers, in an attempt to recoup their losses, may gamble until they've spent their last dollar, and then move on to money they don't have money to pay bills, credit cards, or things for their children. Most compulsive gamblers will go into serious debt, and sell off belongings in order to fuel their addiction. But even if a person's gambling hasn't reached that level, or isn't completely out of control, one could still have a gambling problem. If it disrupts a person's life in any way, it's important for that person to seek help before it becomes worse. Gambling addiction like other behavioral addictions, are sometimes referred to as "hidden illnesses." That's because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms of addiction, like there can be with drugs or other substances. Like substance abusers, compulsive gamblers will go to great lengths to hide their problem; often lying about where they've been or how much money they spent. They may sneak around, avoid loved ones, or stop going to work. They may even steal from other people to help pay off their gambling debts. The first step towards recovery is admitting that there is a problem. This takes a lot of courage, especially if gambling has taken a toll on one's financial and personal life, especially if a person has to own up to debt that jeopardizes their family. While not easy, it is the start on the path to getting better. And by admitting that there is a problem, those who worried about the person suffering from gambling addiction can begin to help. Compulsive gambling may seem like something one can just quit on their own, but it's key to understand that it's not that easy. Gambling addiction is a real disease that requires real intervention and treatment. However, the good news is that recovery is possible. If you think that you, or a loved one, may be struggling with a gambling addiction, seek out a mental health professional for help!

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012