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Gambling Addiction: A Personal Journey and Eye-Opening Insights

Gambling Addiction
Gambling Addiction

When I was in high school, I remember my cousin was so happy to travel to Los Vegas and gamble. With a big smile he carried a large camera and a bag filled with expensive photography equipment. I thought he was on a photo expedition. A week later he was crying at our house. I asked him where’s the camera? He shook his head stating he sold all the equipment to gamble. I was shocked. The camera equipment was beautiful and new. I was sad for him.

Then I stumbled across an article form the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery and learned that there were four phases in gambling addiction. The “winning phase” which usually starts with a big win and the idea that they can keep winning. The “losing phase” where gamblers become more and more preoccupied with gambling. They start to gamble alone, borrow money, skip work, lie to family and friends, and default on debts. They also begin to chase their losses. The “desperation phase” where problem gamblers lose all control over their gambling. They feel ashamed and guilty after gambling, but they can’t stop. They may cheat or steal to finance their addiction. The “hopeless phase” is where problem gamblers hit rock bottom. They don’t believe that anyone cares or that help is possible. They don’t even care if they live or die.

According to a report by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 38.8 million people came to the city in 2022, up 20.5% since 2021. Compared to 2019, the number of visitors to Sin City is still down nearly 9%. The Las Vegas Strip led the state in revenue last year with $8.28 billion, which is up 17% from $7.96 billion in 2021.

According to Psych Central compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you’re willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value. A person may continually chase bets that lead to losses, use up savings and create debt. You may hide your behavior and even turn to theft or fraud to support your addiction.

I personally do not like to lose money. I may bet five dollars on the “one arm bandit” slot machine, but that’s it. Besides, my mother would always say “don’t buy anything unless it’s on sale.”

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes that a gambling disorder requires the following during the past year:

Need to gamble with increasing amounts to achieve the desired excitement.
Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling.
Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling or planning future gambling).
Often gambling when feeling distressed.
After losing money gambling, often returning to get even. (This is referred to as “chasing” one’s losses.)
Lying to hide gambling activity. Lying to hide gambling activity.
Risking or losing a close relationship, a job, or a school or job opportunity because of gambling.
Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling.

When I was a vegetarian, I always saved my money. But my former girlfriend always borrowed money from me. But when I caught her reviewing my checkbook, the “Aha” moment came to me. She and her girlfriend were on their way to Vegas.

If grandma was a gambler, you might’ve picked up her habit. Gambling disorder tends to run in families. Factors such as trauma and social inequality, particularly in women, can be risk factors. Symptoms can begin as early as adolescence or as late as older adulthood. Men are more likely to start at a younger age. Women are more likely to start later in life. Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn’t well understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Keep it simple.

Many states have gambling helplines and other assistance. A National Helpline is available at: 1-800-622-HELP (4357). 

About the Author:

Hilary Valdez is a freelance Writer living in Tokyo, Japan.  He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle.

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