How Does Gambling Addiction Start?
Gambling addiction can start just like any other addiction to drugs or alcohol. It all begins with one high, just one win. The progression of gambling addiction can vary greatly depending on several factors, the more obvious being personality type. One variation of gambling addiction seems to be linked to the kinds of games played. Many people who play more strategic and "skill" games like poker tend to progress much more slowly than those who play quick, immediate gratification games like slot machines and video poker tend to progress at a much faster pace. No matter what the speed of the progression, gambling addiction has three main stages which a gambling addict will experience during the progression to a pathological gambler.
The Winning Stage of Gambling Addiction
The winning stage of gambling addiction is often considered to still be fun and innocuous, but the behaviors of someone in this first stage of gambling addiction are subtle signs of a decent into a compulsive gambling addiction.
In the winning stage of gambling addiction, the addict begins to gamble more often. Although gambling may still be occasional, the time in between gambling begins to shorten. Gambling also begins to be a part of life as the gambler starts to enjoy the high or escape that gambling provides to him or her. The gambler also begins to talk about his or her gambling experiences more often, as winning streaks, or a big win become justification for more gambling. During this stage of gambling addiction, family and friends rarely see any problems as the gambling addict is still having fun and has not suffered any real consequences as a result of his or her gambling. The duration of this winning stage of gambling addiction varies, but is generally much shorter for the video poker gambler than for the race track gambler.
The Losing Stage of Gambling Addiction
The losing stage of gambling addiction is the stage at which problems begin to become more obvious and the fun and euphoria of the winning stage has begun to fade.
In the losing stage of gambling addiction, the addict begins to gamble much more often, often making gambling a ritual. Bets become larger as the addict needs to put more on the line to feel the same level of euphoria from the winning stage of gambling addiction. The gambler also bets more often, trying to win back losses as soon as possible. More free time is spent gambling, home and work life often begin to suffer as a result of excess time spent gambling. The addict begins to be preoccupied with gambling, often taking out loans to finance continued gambling. Often, because of losses and deteriorating financial situations, the addict will feel depression and/or anxiety and try to hid his or her gambling from family and loved ones. The losing stage of gambling is easily recognizable by an astute observer, but it still often overlooked by friends and family who have no reason to suspect that anything has gone wrong.
The Depression Stage of Gambling Addiction
The depression stage of gambling addiction is the stage when the gambling addict experiences more extreme depression and anxiety over mounting financial pressures and continued gambling loses. The gambler will become increasingly isolated from friends and loves ones, feeling desperate to have a change of luck with their gambling. It is in this final stage that gambling addicts often try to steal or commit crimes to finance continued gambling after they have already sold all of their belongings. Once the depression stage of gambling addiction has taken effect, most all gambling addicts consider suicide, and about 1/3 of them attempt it. Many additional addictions can take root as a result of gambling addiction. While gambling may have been the escape to begin with, once it has become the very source of depression and anxiety, many addicts begin to drink or abuse drugs as an escape from their initial escape, which has turned into a nightmare. Many gambling addicts who turn to crime and robbery to finance their gambling addiction are arrested and charged with crimes to be permanently on their criminal records.
The best time to address gambling addiction is in the winning stage, when things still seem to be fine and there aren't are glaring signs of a problem, but it is difficult to recognize the signs if one does not know what to look for. Generally, by the time a gambling addict gets to the depression stage of gambling addiction, there are additional problems to address, and the overall addiction and compulsive behavioral problems have become so complex, that it takes longer and more intense treatment for success. While relapse is a risk no matter what stage gambling addiction is treated, like with any addiction, it is always best to address it as early as possible for the best chances at success without relapse.
Gambling Addiction Treatment
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