Many addictions plague society, and service members are not exempt. Alcoholism, smoking, illegal drug use and pornography often come to mind. With casinos continuing to pop up and online gaming readily available, gambling addiction is a growing problem that adversely affects many lives.
Problem gambling is a behavior that causes disruptions in any major area of life whether it is psychological, physical, social or vocational, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. It went on to say the amount of money lost or won does not determine when gambling becomes a problem. Gambling becomes a problem when it causes a negative impact on any area of the individual’s life.
According to the experts at www.helpguide.org, gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know they’re hurting themselves and others. Regardless of how a person gambles, when it becomes an addiction it can cause issues with work, relationships and finances. In extreme cases, addicts may resort to stealing money to gamble or pay debts, even selling their possessions to get a fix. Because this can lead to theft or unpaid debts, this can lead to administrative action and adversely affect the career of military service members.
Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, gambling addiction has no obvious signs or symptoms, and is referred to as the “hidden illness” by doctors. Many gamblers go to great lengths to hide the problem. They feel the need to be secretive, withdrawing from loved ones, sneaking around and lying about where they’ve been. Others have trouble controlling their gambling, often placing bets with money they don’t have; money to pay bills, credit cards and things for their family; and betting down to their last dollar chasing losses. Many sincerely believe that gambling more money is the only way to win lost money back, putting them further and further in the hole.
According to the National Council of Problem Gambling, two million (1 percent) of U.S. adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year. Another four to six million (2 to 3 percent) are considered problem gamblers; that is, they do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, but meet one or more of the criteria and are experiencing problems due to their gambling behavior. Research also indicates that most adults who choose to gamble are able to do responsibly.
While many people are affected and may feel there is nothing they can do, there is help. The first step is for individuals to admit they have a problem.
“Every gambler is unique, so every gambler needs a recovery program tailored to them,” said the experts at www.helpguide.org. “What works for one gambler won’t necessarily work for every gambler.”
Support groups are available for gambling addicts. For more information, call the mental health clinic at (623) 896- 7579 or the National Council on Problem Gambling at (800) 522-4700 for a 24-hour confidential hotline.
Myths and facts about gambling addiction and problem gambling
Myth: You have to gamble every day to be a problem gambler.
Fact: A problem gambler may gamble frequently or infrequently. Gambling is a problem if it causes problems.
Myth: Problem gambling is not really a problem if the gambler can afford it.
Fact: Problems caused by excessive gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can lead to relationship breakdown and loss of important friendships.
Myth: Partners of problem gamblers often drive problem gamblers to gamble.
Fact: Problem gamblers often rationalize behavior. Blaming others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what is needed to overcome the problem.
Myth: If a problem gambler builds up a debt, you should help them take care of it.
Fact: Quick fix solutions may appear to be the right thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may actually make matters worse by enabling gambling problems to continue.