The Hidden Epidemic of Compulsive Gambling

The Compulsive Gambler is…
One of a handful of men and women you may see at a racetrack, card game, casino, bingo hall, OTB office. Or he or she may be sitting right next to you in your own living room, watching a football or baseball game on TV. Unlike others, the compulsive gambler is rooting for one team or horse over another because he has had to bet with money he probably cannot afford to lose. The compulsive gambler is driven to gamble in the same way that an alcoholic needs a periodic drink or a drug addict needs a “fix.”

The average compulsive gambler is a person sixteen years old or over, is from a good home and a stable family, and often holds a steady job. He or she is likely to be clean, well-dressed and is probably at least a high school graduate. The average compulsive gambler then is well camouflaged. Unlike the alcoholic or the junkie, he does not reveal the signs of his addiction on his breath nor by tracks on his arm. He appears to be no different from the average responsible citizen. But the compulsive gambler suffers from a serious disease and, because of the nature of that disease, it is likely that the sickness will not be discovered until it is in its advanced stages.

Compulsive Gambling is…
A progressive behavior disorder in which an individual has a psychologically uncontrollable preoccupation and urge to gamble. This results in excessive gambling, the out come of which is the loss of productive time and money. Unless treated, the gambling will reach the point where it compromises, disrupts and then destroys the gambler’s personal life, family relationships and vocational pursuits. These problems in turn further intensify the gambling behavior.

To the compulsive, gambling seems to offer an easy solution to some of life’s most pressing problems: insufficient money, little prestige or self-esteem, feelings of boredom or failure, hopelessness and defeat. But at the center of the disease is the certainty that the gambler must lose; and with continued losses, there is an increase of those very problems which led him to gamble in the beginning – thus escalating the pressures (and the stakes) to gamble more heavily and more frequently. To the compulsive gambler, the need to bet is no longer a little “action” or the illusion of a quick and easy profit: it has become a matter of life and death.

The Costs of the Disease Are…

  • Family disruption, neglected or abused children, divorce, impoverishment, mental breakdown.
  • Billions of dollars worth of productivity lost by business and industry through absenteeism, wasted time, poor work performance. theft of materials and accident.
  • Criminal acts committed to raise money in order to continue gambling after heavy losses and mounting debts. The longer the disease continues untreated, the greater the probability of arrest and imprisonment.
  • The unabated misery of being in the grips of an uncontrollable disease, without even knowing it, thus permitting the disease to wreck family, career and even life which, in many cases, ends in suicide.

Help Can Come…
Only if the observant parent, husband or wife, relative or employer recognizes that a loved and valued person is suffering from a disease for which he is no more responsible than one who is congenitally blind. Indeed, the very nature of the disease is a kind of blindness which prevents the gambler from seeing his actions as pathological symptoms. For this reason, few compulsive gamblers can re cover without the help of others. The gambler must be motivated in every way possible to realize the seriousness of the disease in order to seek help. There is no doubt that compulsive gambling can be treated.

Thousands of sick compulsive gamblers still languish in prisons and mental hospitals. And millions of compulsive or potential compulsives are on the street, in the office, at the racetrack, in the church or synagogue- sponsored bingo or poker game, disrupting families, creating social havoc.

They suffer from an illness that is still largely unrecognized, untreated and hence, reaching the proportions of an epidemic.

Yet, thousands of compulsives have stopped gambling and have rebuilt their once-catastrophic and tragic lives. Often, the recovered gambler will discover a deeper meaning to his or her life and to the renewed relation ships with family, colleagues and friends.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Inc., aims to reduce and prevent this insidious disease by mobilizing public support through public information and education, and through interaction with professional groups concerned with the growing impact of pathological gambling.


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