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Compulsive gambling is defined by an overwhelming desire to bet or gamble even when the consequences are likely to be really harmful. Often, compulsive gamblers are aware that they have a problem but are unable or unwilling to stop gambling even though they can admit that they should. Compulsive gamblers can cause a lot of financial and relationship problems for themselves and their loved ones. In extreme cases, many compulsive gamblers borrow money from friends and family to feed their addiction, and, once those resources are depleted they may turn to loan sharks or seek other high risk loans. As their debts stack up, compulsive gamblers can become erratic and desperate; they may contemplate committing dangerous crimes to gain more money or hurting themselves to escape debt and shame.
What are the symptoms?
Friends and family of compulsive gamblers are the first to know that they have a problem. Compulsive gamblers can be identified by their preoccupation with gambling, and their tendency to gamble even when circumstances dictate that it endangers their relationships or financial circumstances. Other symptoms include a tolerance for gambling, or the need to bet more and more money, withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness and irritability after long periods of abstinence from gambling, lying to hide gambling habits, risking employment or personal relationships on gambling habits, and consistently trying to win back losses with increased gambling. In effect, any gambling habit that significantly contributes to financial problems or relationship stress can be considered problem gambling and is the sign of a compulsive gambler.
How can someone stop?
When it comes to compulsive gambling, the road to recovery is often a difficult one. Much like alcoholism, the most tried and true way to treat compulsive gambling is to stop gambling altogether. Joining a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, seeking counseling from a qualified professional, and admitting the problem to friends and family and asking for their understanding and support have all been shown to be successful methods.