Thursday, July 29, 2010

Compulsive Gambling Is A Progressive Addiction

image by iprole, sxc.hu

Acknowledge It As Such, And Know That It Is Treatable

Does the sight of horses galloping down the racing tracks set your pulse racing too? Does the sight of the spinning roulette make your hand automatically and without your knowledge reach into your wallet to buy the chips at the casino cage? Does the mere hint of a situation giving you high returns if you handle it a certain way, propel you forward without any further thinking or reflection? And never mind the low probability that your way will work out in your favor!

image by jordifa, sxc.hu

In some individuals, gambling comes naturally. They are always attracted towards any situation with a small probability of large gain, than towards a situation with a high probability of small gain. The higher the stakes and the higher the returns, the more the adrenalin gushes through the veins! In others, it is usually peer pressure, or a casual fling with gambling to pass the time, or even the lure of easy money without expending much effort, or even as a fulltime profession - which brings them to the betting table. In both these cases, the line between harmless flirtation of staking one's money within limits - and becoming debt-ridden, depressed, suicidally-ideated, remorseful, followed later by breaking the family and / or breaking the law... is very thin. One never knows when this line got crossed until it is too late.

image by cjcj, sxc.hu

The extreme ends of the financial pendulum that a compulsive gambler keeps swinging back and forth are these: they have amassed certain amount of wealth in a short period of time and are therefore riding euphoric on new-found success, or they have lost their last dollar and don't have even the money to buy the ride home. The problem with the former is more severe, for when the fall comes, as it invariably does, they land on the ground with such a thud and so much drama that it becomes difficult for them, if not entirely impossible, to get up, shake off the detritus from their clothes and move on. Whatever financial state a compulsive gambler may be in, their mental state is nearly-similar: the thoughts are firmly focused on their particular fix, like an obsession, to the point that they even dream about it in sleep - that is, if they get sleep at all. If the last time turned out to be a total loss, don't worry, tomorrow you will surely and definitely win, and you will show them what you are made of.

image by henry_azui, sxc.hu


The social state is not different too. Their family life is in shambles, and their circle of friends outside the peers in the gambling den is reduced to nil. Priorities about money management are totally skewed in one direction - that of investing the next available dollar into gambling. This means that the money required for the child's education or the money required to pay the mortgage is siphoned towards addiction-fulfillment. To say that the impact on the family is disastrous would be an understatement. Just like in smoking where there are active smokers and passive smokers, in the same way, in compulsive gambling there are primary victims and secondary victims; and the latter unfortunately are more in number.

image by stlyesr1, sxc.hu

And unlike in other forms of addiction such as alcohol or smoking or substance abuse where you can take away the object of fixation such as the drink or the cigarette or the drug, here the object of fixation is money, which it is difficult to take away, especially if the compulsive gambler happens to be themselves earning. Family members can reason with the addicted person only up to a point. What usually works best in such cases is to make the person realize and acknowledge that they indeed have a problem. This is the first step towards recovery. And this is where the counselor and psychotherapist play a role.

image by gmarcelo, sxc.hu

There are quite a few psychotherapeutic techniques that have been put to use, either singly or in combination, and customized depending on the context. The success rate is reported to be quite high in this form of treatment. An important component of the therapy is the involvement of the family members, as it is they who have to take over after the addict walks out of the therapist's clinic.

image by hoefi, sxc.hu

So the next time you see a huge banner on the highway showing good-looking men and women having a good time at some betting game, inviting you to join in the fun and also to spend money and earn even more money, do a quick self-inventory. Is your pulse racing? Are you thinking about the money left in your wallet?

image by milca, sxc.hu

[It is not sensation-seeking and impulsivity and low self-control alone that drive the gambler to stake their entire funds on something that offers a very weak promise of returning their funds back, multiple-fold. Somewhere deep within, there is also this urge to enjoy life _now_, in the present moment, and not bother about what is to come tomorrow. "Carpe Diem", they call it. The opposite of this notion is a dull, drab, unfulfilled life. Poets down the ages have waxed eloquent on this notion. But is it so simple, the comparison between these opposites? This article here ponders: "Carpe Diem? Or Delayed Gratification?".]

image by svilen001, sxc.hu

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the carpe diem excuse is used a lot but I also think it is just an excuse. Money goes a lot farther when used to enjoy life in other ways besides gambling and I think many addicts don't realize that.

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