Pathalogic gambling describes a syndrome when gambling has become destructive leading to financial ruin and family breakdown. The pathalogical gambler has become unable to control the urge to gamble and incurrs huge debts to maintain the gambling compulsion. The gambling has become a pathology requiring serious treatment.
A pathological gambler may have begun as an occasional gambler. He placed a few bets here and there and visiting a casino once in a while. Over time, the gambling escalated until the compulsion to gamble all the time takes over. Huge looses accrue and the gambler’s life is clearly out of control.
A gambler that is unable to control his or her gambling is referred to as a pathological gambler. Other terms used to refer to this syndrome are compulsive gambling or gambling addiction. The use of the term pathological implies that the condition is not normal. It has become a pathology and as such, treatment is required to stop and reverse the destructive behaviour.
Pathological gambling is often referred to as an impulse control disorder but there are many that dispute this analysis of the condition. The manifestation of pathological gambling is perhaps simpler to understand than the causes. Having started gambling, the pathological gambler loses all control over his or her gambling. Over time losses begin to occur. Typically, money that was earmarked for rent, food, education and so on is diverted to casinos or betting shops. Internet casinos are fast becoming another venue to fleece pathological gamblers of their money.
The families of pathological gamblers often bear the brunt of the gambler’s losses and radical mood swings. Pathological gambling can transform an honest person into a liar and a thief. Friends and colleagues may become the source of loans to finance the habit. The longer the condition persists, the worse the outcome. There have been many cases where gamblers, having lost everything, choose suicide as their only escape. Many class the condition as a disease.
Much like alcoholism and narcotic addiction, the pathologic gambling requires ever increasing doses as time goes on. This takes the form of ever increasing bets. A modest bet that was enough at the outset of the gambling habit no longer produces the required adrenalin rush that the gambler needs. Over time, the bets increase dramatically in both size and frequency.
Family and friends are usually aware of the problem long before the gambler has any idea that he has a problem. The gambler usually remains in denial for long periods often spanning many years before seeking treatment. While those around him or her can clearly see the problem, the compulsive gambler believes that all is well. It is just a case of a run of bad luck.
As with other addictions, the first step towards addressing the problem may be a policy of tough love. Family must stand firm and allow no bail outs for the gambler. Providing an ultimatum to the gambler may be a trigger for the gambler to seek help.
The main treatments available for problem gamblers are the participation in self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and psychological addiction counselling. A necessary precondition to successful treatment is the recognition of the problem by the gambler. In some cases gamblers may check into rehabilitation centres for addiction problems.
Gamblers Anonymous follow a twelve step program based on Alcoholics Anonymous programme. Those that stick to the program may remain free of gambling for many years. According to Gamblers Anonymous, compulsive gambling is an incurable disease that can only be managed through regular meetings, participation in the twelve steps and total abstinence. Partners and families of the gambler are encouraged to take control of the gambler’s finances for a number of months or even years.
Pathological gambling is a growing problem that has been compounded by the many online casinos emerging around the world and a more liberal legal environment.
Pathological gambling is a serious condition that can cause serious destruction to the lives of both the gambler and his or her family.