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Monthly Archives: October 2010

High Stakes: Gambling, Depression and Suicide

Like all addictions, compulsive gambling causes intense distress and continual disruptions in most areas of life: It messes up your mind, body, family and work. Even worse, compulsive gamblers are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts and
to make suicide attempts than those with other addictions.

When gambling is a problem The term “compulsive gambling” includes a condition known as pathological gambling, a progressive addiction where someone:
• becomes increasingly preoccupied with gambling
• needs to bet more money more frequently
• feels restless or irritable when trying to stop “chasing” losses
• loses control—continues gambling although it is causing serious problems
Have you, or someone you care about, lost control of your gambling? According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately 1 percent of adults in the United States (about 3 million people) are compulsive gamblers. Another 2 percent to 3 percent have less significant, but still serious, problems with gambling and are classified as problem gamblers.

Why depression and suicide are more likely
Factors that contribute to depression and suicide among compulsive gamblers include:
• Medical: Compulsive gamblers have higher occurrences of insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer, high blood pressure, migraines and other stressrelated physical problems than those in the general population.
• Psychiatric: Compulsive gambling is associated with major depressive disorder, hypomania, bipolar disorder, and panic and anxiety disorders.
• Addiction: Fifty percent of compulsive gamblers are also substance abusers.
• Financial: Problem gamblers also accumulate debts that often result in foreclosures on mortgages and bankruptcy.
The financial burdens associated with compulsive gambling can be enormous. It is often cited as the precipitating event prior to a suicide attempt. For example, a patient in Florida lost more than $65,000 on Internet gambling in a few short months by using
credit cards. As debt accumulated and bills were neglected, the stress, anger, guilt and remorse escalated, creating pain and despair for the family.

As a result of this acute and overwhelming distress, spouses of problem gamblers have higher rates of stress-related physical problems such as headaches, insomnia, intestinal disorders, asthma and depression. The suicide-attempt rate for spouses of problem gamblers is three times higher than that of the general population.

Signs to watch for
Characteristics of gamblers who contemplate or attempt suicide include:
• suffer from more psychiatric symptoms
• are less satisfied with their living situations
• report more days of marital, interpersonal and family conflict
• abuse, or are addicted to, drugs or alcohol
• have large debts
• feel hopeless
• recently lost a large amount of money

Symptoms of compulsive gambling
The American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual classifies compulsive gambling as an impulse-control disorder. To meet the diagnostic criteria for compulsive gambling, a person must show persistent gambling behavior as indicated by at least five of the following criteria:
• is preoccupied with gambling (for example, reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)
• needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve desired excitement
• makes repeated, unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop gambling
• is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
• uses gambling as a way to escape problems or to relieve a dysphoric mood (feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)
• after losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
• lies to family members, therapists or others to conceal extent of involvement with gambling
• has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement to finance gambling
• has jeopardized or lost an important relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
• relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling

If you are concerned that you may have a gambling problem or suspect or worry about a family member, talk with a mental health professional for more information or call us 24/7: 1-877-559-9355

Sources: National Council on Problem Gambling, www.ncpgambling.org; Blume, S. “Pathological Gambling.” In Lowinson’s Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook. 3rd Edition. Williams & Wilkins, 1997; Angst F, Stassen HH, Clayton PJ, Angst J. “Mortality of patients with mood disorders: Follow-up over 34-38 years.” (2002) Journal of Affective Disorders; 68:167-181. Article written by Drew Edwards, EdD, MS.     http://www.drdrewedwards.org/
© 2004-2005 Achieve Solutions

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Pathological gambling


Pathological gambling is being unable to resist impulses to gamble, which can lead to severe personal or social consequences.


People with pathological gambling often feel ashamed and try to avoid letting others know of their problem. The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling as having five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Committing crimes to get money to gamble
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back or quit gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Gambling larger amounts of money to try to make back previous losses
  • Having had many unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit gambling
  • Losing a job, relationship, or educational or career opportunity due to gambling
  • Lying about the amount of time or money spent gambling
  • Needing to borrow money to get by due to gambling losses
  • Needing to gamble larger amounts of money in order to feel excitement
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about gambling, such as past experiences or ways to get more money with which to gamble

Treatment for people with pathological gambling begins with recognizing the problem. Pathological gambling is often associated with denial. People with the illness often refuse to accept that they are ill or need treatment.

Most people with pathological gambling enter treatment under pressure from others, rather than voluntarily accepting the need for treatment.

Treatment options include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be effective.
  • Self-help support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Principles related to stopping the habit (abstinence) for other types of addiction, such as substance abuse and alcohol dependence, can also be helpful in the treatment of pathological gambling.
  • A few studies have been done on medications for the treatment of pathological gambling. Early results suggest that antidepressants and opioid antagonists (naltrexone) may help treat the symptoms of pathological gambling. However, it is not yet clear which people will respond to medications.

Pathological gambling usually begins in early adolescence in men, and between ages 20 and 40 in women.

Pathological gambling often involves repetitive behaviors. People with this problem have a hard time resisting or controlling the impulse to gamble. Although it shares features of obsessive compulsive disorder, pathological gambling is likely a different condition.

In people who develop pathological gambling, occasional gambling leads to a gambling habit. Stressful situations can worsen gambling problems.

A psychiatric evaluation and history can be used to diagnose pathological gambling. Screening tools such as the Gamblers Anonymous 20 Questions can help with the diagnosis.

Like alcohol or drug addiction, pathological gambling is a chronic disorder that tends to get worse without treatment. Even with treatment, it’s common to start gambling again (relapse). However, people with pathological gambling can do very well with the right treatment.

Exposure to gambling may increase the risk of developing pathological gambling. Limiting exposure may be helpful for people who are at risk.

Public exposure to gambling, however, continues to increase in the form of lotteries, electronic and Internet gambling, and casinos. Intervention at the earliest signs of pathological gambling may prevent the disorder from getting worse.

Complications may include:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Financial, social, and legal problems (including bankruptcy, divorce, job loss, time in prison)
  • Heart attacks (from the stress and excitement of gambling)
  • Suicide attempts

Getting the right treatment can help prevent many of these problems.

Call your health care provider or mental health professional if you believe you have symptoms of pathological gambling.

Article taken from: https://health.google.com/health/ref/Pathological+gambling

What is a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction is a mental-health problem that is understood to be one of many kinds of impulse-control problems a person may suffer from. The types of gambling that people with this disorder might engage in are as variable as the games available. Betting on sports, buying lotto tickets, playing poker, slot machines, or roulette are only a few of the activities in which compulsive gamblers engage. The venue of choice for individuals with gambling addiction varies as well. While many prefer gambling in a casino, the rate of online/Internet gambling addiction continues to increase with increased use of the Internet. Gambling addiction is also called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling.

Estimates of the number of people who gamble socially qualify for being diagnosed with a gambling addiction range from 2%-5%, thereby affecting millions of people in the United States alone. Although more men than women are thought to suffer from pathological gambling, women are developing this disorder at higher rates, now making up as much as 25% of individuals with pathological gambling. Other facts about compulsive gambling are that men tend to develop this disorder during their early teenage years while women tend to develop it later. However, the disorder in women then tends to get worse at a much faster rate than in men. Other apparently gender-based differences in gambling addiction include the tendencies for men to become addicted to more interpersonal forms of gaming, like blackjack, craps or poker, whereas women tend to engage in less interpersonally based betting, like slot machines or bingo. Men with pathological gambling tend to receive counseling about issues other than gambling less often than their female counterparts.

Problem gambling generally means gambling that involves more than one symptom but less than the at least five symptoms required to qualify for the diagnosis of compulsive or pathological gambling. Binge gambling is a subtype of compulsive gambling that involves problem gambling but only during discrete periods of time. That is different from a general gambling addiction, which tends to involve excessive gambling behavior on an ongoing basis and to include persistent thoughts (preoccupation) about gambling even during times when the person is not engaged in gambling.

Article taken from: http://www.medicinenet.com/gambling_addiction/article.htm

Gambling – Changing your lifestyle and making healthier choices

One way to stop yourself from problem gambling is to analyze what is needed for gambling to occur, work on removing these elements from your life and replace them with healthier choices. The four elements needed for problem gambling to continue are:

  • A decision: Before gambling occurs, the decision to gamble has been made. If you have an urge to gamble: stop what you are doing and call someone, think about the consequences to your actions, tell yourself to stop thinking about gambling, and find something else to do immediately.
  • Money: Gambling cannot occur without money. Get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your money, have the bank make automatic payments for you, and keep a limited amount of cash on you at all times.
  • Time: Gambling cannot occur if you don’t have the time. Schedule enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling, find time for relaxation, and plan outings with your family.
  • A game: Without a game or activity to bet on there is no opportunity to gamble. Don’t put yourself in tempting environments or locations. Tell the gambling establishments you frequent that you have a gambling problem and ask them to restrict you from betting at their casinos and establishments.

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