Gambling is a distraction for most people, something to look forward to on a vacation or the occasional trip to the racetrack. However, there are others who can’t control their interest in gambling. Instead of doing it on an occasional basis, it becomes an everyday activity and a cruel addiction. Individuals who become addicted to gambling often get overwhelmed by the activity and allow it to become the dominant thing in their lives at the expense of themselves and their family.
Addicted gamblers get into trouble when they start chasing their losses. A gambler may go to the casino or go online to gamble with a fixed amount of money. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the increased access to gambling throughout the United States the problem of pathlological gambling is likely to increase in the future.
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The gambler doesn’t want to lose, but when those losses occur, he doesn’t want others to know about it. He wants to hide his losses because he doesn’t want to disappoint others and he doesn’t want to face the consequences of what is happening. So when an addicted gambler is losing, he is hurting his family by losing money that cannot afford to be lost and he is hurting is family even more by lying to them. According to a report by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, there are 2.5 million pathological gamblers in the United States and another 3 million problem gamblers.
In many cases, the addicted gambler’s family doesn’t find out about the problem until many months or years have gone by. The gambler may manipulate the family’s money for a while to make it look like all the funds are in tact. However, after a given period, that won’t be possible because the money will be gone. The gambler’s spouse or significant other may discover the shortfall in a routine examination of the accounts or the gambler may admit the problem when the guilt becomes overwhelming. Either way, trust has been destroyed in the relationship.
Preventing a gambler from gambling is difficult, but if family members know about the problem and really want to help, they can practice tough love in order to prevent the gambler from doing more damage to himself and to the family. A support group like Gamblers Anonymous can also help. GA, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, uses 12 steps to increase self-awareness and identify character defects that can help the individual arrest his gambling problem. However, the compulsive gambler cannot be “cured.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians has identified some of the behaviors associated with pathological gambling, which can help family members identify if a family member has a gambling problem. These behaviors include preoccupation with gambling; repeated failed efforts to control gambling; gambles to escape problems; lies to family members, therapists and others to conceal gambling losses and relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations.