Gambling is a form of entertainment that most people engage in to pass the time. For many, it is a harmless vice, but, for some, it can lead to a very serious problem. In the United States alone, more than 15 million people currently have problems related to excessive gambling, or what is commonly known as “problem gambling.” Around 20% of this population, or approximately 3 million individuals, suffer from a condition called gambling addiction. Pathological gamblers find it hard to stop gambling even if they lose all their money or all their friends; to a pathological gambler, nothing is more important than gambling. Winning does not matter, as long as he or she is given the chance to continue gambling.
In recent years, many families and a number of professional relationships have been destroyed by gambling addiction. It is the starting point of a financial catastrophe, and it can have adverse effects on other aspects of one’s life as well. It can even drive an individual to do things that he or she would not even dream of doing, such as stealing from his or her own family or selling precious heirlooms. Because of their reckless behavior, most people are reluctant to interact with them and pathological gamblers become withdrawn and detached.
Gambling addiction is mainly a psychological problem that leads to feelings of shame and guilt. Pathological gamblers may love what they do, but they hate themselves for doing it, which ultimately makes the problem worse. Because of all the guilt feelings, pathological gamblers tend to undervalue themselves and their well being. This, in turn, leads to more gambling, with the individual engaging in the activity as a means to cope with conflicts within and without himself or herself. As with substance abuse and addiction, gambling addiction should be treated with the utmost care and diligence since it shares many common qualities with the former.