Is Gambling Just For Entertainment? Guest Article From Psych Central~Compulsive Gambling 101

Hello and Welcome Recovery Friends and Visitors,


When I do loads of research for my recovery article writing, I come across interesting articles written by other writers. One of my favorite places to visit for research is the fine folks over on Psych Central .Com . . . Now I know what you are thinking, “isn’t that website for just mental health resources?” NO, they wonderful articles, blog, and many fantastic resources for addiction as well. I go there as I am ‘dual diagnosed.’  So here is an article I came across that introduces compulsive gambling addiction and what it is. I hope by sharing this today, someone may get help, know they are not alone, and be informed and educated about this devastating addiction. . . .

An Introduction to Compulsive Gambling

Although gambling does not produce the cognitive or physical impairment associated with alcohol or drug abuse, an obsession with gambling can be just as devastating. Compulsive gambling can destroy social, personal and occupational or educational performance.

Compulsive gambling is considered a form of addiction. The term addiction is usually reserved to explain a compulsive attraction or pathological attachment to a substance, normally a drug. However, we now recognize that some behaviors can be addicting, such as eating, sex and gambling. All addiction is characterized by loss of control, preoccupation, racing thoughts, obsessive nature, narrowing of interests, dishonesty, guilt and chronic relapse.

Addictions to behavioral processes are called process addictions. The process of engaging in these behaviors leads to typical addiction symptoms (withdrawal, tolerance, heightened excitement or euphoria).


Process addictions are more common among children of alcoholics or addicts, recovering alcoholics or addicts, or current alcoholics or addicts. Like other addictions, in many cases there are no correlations with high-risk situations or history—it just happens.

When people describe their subjective experience related to gambling or other process addictions, their stories are qualitatively similar to users’ descriptions of their drug addictions. Compulsive gamblers indicate that they seek to be in action, referring to the “high” or euphoric state associated with the act of gambling. Gamblers also describe the anticipated high or “rush” before being in action.

The description of these aroused states is remarkably similar to that described by cocaine addicts. A study involving 298 cocaine abusers found that a diagnosis of compulsive gambling could be made in 15 percent of the population—19 percent of the males and 5 percent of the females. This is about five to seven times the rate expected in the general population.

Course of Gambling Addiction

The course of the gambling and process addictions is remarkably similar to that of drugs or alcoholism. Some divide pathological gambling into four phases: winning, losing, desperation and weakness.



The early or winning phase is similar to the learning phase of a substance addict where the high is fun and the consequences minimal or nonexistent. As the disease progresses, there is a marked narrowing of interests as the gambler becomes preoccupied with gambling and obtaining money to gamble.

Home life and interpersonal relationships are affected as the gambler lies and covers up losses and is careless about the welfare of his family. Interests narrow to gambling and planning to gamble. There are often “bailouts,” where the family members lend the gambler money to pay off debts. This is akin to enabling behavior seen in families of alcoholics and addicts. Finally, as the gambler becomes alienated from family and friends, helplessness, demoralization, divorce, suicidal thoughts and other catastrophic consequences occur as the gambler hits the bottom.

Phases of Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gamblers go through the following four phases:

Phase 1: Winning phase

  • more common in “action seekers” (usually men) than escape gamblers (usually women)
  • initially, occasional gambling followed by more frequent gambling
  • big win
  • increasing bet amount
  • unreasonable optimism—feeling of authority
  • big shot—brags about winning while minimizing losses
  • lasts months to years

Phase 2: Losing phase (“the chase”)

  • often begins with unpredictable losing streak
  • can’t stop gambling (“chasing”)
  • borrows money (bailouts)
  • covering up, lying
  • home and work life affected
  • spouse, even if aware of gambling, usually unaware of the extent of debt incurred
  • personality changes—irritable, restless and withdrawn

Phase 3: Desperation phase

  • often begins with gambling away funds from a bailout that were supposed to pay debts
  • options decrease
  • illegal or immoral acts (e.g., fraud, embezzlement, writing bad checks)
  • reputation affected
  • alienation from family and friends
  • most common time for seeking help — “hitting bottom”

Phase 4: Helplessness

  • suicide thoughts and attempts (15 to 25 percent prevalence rate of suicide)
  • major depression
  • co-morbid substance abuse
  • divorce
  • emotional breakdown
  • arrests



Note:  I can tell you from my own addiction to gambling and what I went through, and experienced, I did go through most all above.  Trust me, it is very shameful when the police come to your door and arrested you and haul you to jail for stealing from somebody. Then, sitting in a cold concrete jail cell for hours waiting to booked and then released. It was very embarrassing, sobering, and shameful all at that the same time. I never want to go through that experience AGAIN!

My point in sharing my flaws and character defects is to prove that for those who are problem gamblers, or even if you may have a full-blown gambling addiction?  The different phases above? They WILL surely happen to you if you keep on gambling, or using gambling for all the wrong reasons . . . .

If you have yet to read my current book; “Addicted To Dimes, Confessions of a Liar and a Cheat?”
I wrote all my pitfalls about what I went through with the disease of Compulsive Addicted Gambling.

Product Details

( Click Book to Amazon )

Keep Up The Good Fight Recovery Friends! ODAAT!

In Recovery Magazine Columnist & Author,
~Catherine Townsend-Lyon ~



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