Gambling for fun and problem gambling draw a fine line between the divide of healthy versus harmful. The biggest question poses: where is this line drawn? Problem gambling, also known as ludomania is an urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria. Although the term gambling addiction is common in the recovery movement, pathological gambling is considered to be an impulse control disorder and is therefore not considered by the American Psychological Association to be an addiction. Although this may not be “classified” as an addiction, the damage that is done by this impulsive behavior is non-reversible is most instances.
Identifying that there is a real problem is the first step. Signs of problem gambling are commonly characterized by a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, “chasing” losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. No matter how large or small scale the damage is, the main focus is that damage is being done. Problem gambling doesn’t have to take place in casinos and racetracks; it can literally take place anywhere. The compulsion to gamble or bet can transcend all over, today people are even betting on the outcomes of political elections or the winner of reality shows.
As with any other form of compulsive behavior and/or addictions, there is help available for problem gambling. Gamblers come in all forms; a person that suffers from problem gambling can very well be the person next to you. Look for the warning signs, as they may vary is severity but generally they include the use of gambling as a way to escape problems or relieve depression, inability to stop playing regardless of winning or losing, and despite constant vows to abstain, use of alcohol, sleep, or drugs to escape, restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop gambling, and many other signs alluding to gambling addiction.