Problem gambling is a chronic and progressive illness. People with this condition can't control their impulse to gamble and have a need for the gambling "high". The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that 10 million Americans have significant gambling problems with 3 million meeting the diagnostic criteria for compulsive or pathological gambling disorder. Men and women of any age can be compulsive or pathological gamblers. Youth are particularly vulnerable.
Gambling requires money and time and therefore causes problems with relationships and jobs. Compulsive lying, depression, drinking and using drugs are associated with problem gambling. Some gamblers become abusive to their partners. Gamblers compartmentalize their lives so that their debts to many are not discovered in their one-on-one relationships. They may also commit crimes such as theft, fraud, or embezzlement to support their gambling.
Compulsive gambling is a serious addiction. People become compulsive gamblers because of the rush they feel when winning and losing money. Many compulsive gamblers experience a big win or a series of big wins and begin gambling more often. This is followed by losses and the gambler begins chasing bets believing that they must return as soon as possible to win back the losses. The time spent gambling increases and is accompanied by remorse, hopelessness and alienation from family and friends. Emotional breakdown occurs and some may think about suicide or actually attempt suicide.
All the time that the gambler is creating such chaos and pain, those around him or her feel betrayed and powerless.
During this on-going life crisis it is important to remember that there is help available and there is always hope for remission. Family and friends can support the gambler's efforts to be in remission, but it is the gambler who must have the ability to make the choice to continue treatment and not gamble.