Understanding Problem Gambling
Most people who gamble do so without experiencing problems related to their gambling. Unfortunately, a small, but important subset of this group develop a debilitating addictive disorder commonly referred to as Compulsive Gambling. Individuals with Compulsive Gambling are preoccupied with gambling and suffer uncontrollable urges to gamble. The central behavioral characteristic of compulsive gambling is "chasing the bet" in which the gambler deals with a significant loss by returning with additional money to try to "get even". The behavior of chasing the bet fuels larger and larger losses as the compulsive gambler bets larger amounts over longer periods of time in an effort to counter the accumulating losses. The compulsive gambler will often lie to others, including loved ones, about their gambling. As a group compulsive gamblers experience increased rates of co-occurring psychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide. The Louisiana Study of Problem Gambling (2002) reported that 1.5-2% of individuals in Louisiana suffer from Compulsive Gambling resulting in an estimate of from 3,105 to 4,140 individuals from Southwest Louisiana suffering from Compulsive Gambling.
Compulsive gamblers may be male or female, young or old, from any ethnic group, religion or income level. He or she may gamble on video poker, slots, horse races, card games, dice, sports, lottery, bingo, or the stock market. Some estimates have indicated that adolescents may have an even higher incidence of compulsive gambling, perhaps as high as 6 to 8 % of the adolescent population (http://www.thegamble.org). Any game of chance that allows the gambler to place money at risk can occasion a gambling addiction in a vulnerable individual.