Understanding the three phases of compulsive gambling

Problem gambling usually follows a pattern behaviorally, which we’ve outlined in three distinct phases. Gambling is a form of recreation but can also be a multi-billion-dollar industry all around the world. Also, the exciting feeling gotten from it can be powerful and addictive. The money invested in it is way more than what the money spent on other forms of entertainment. The fun part of it can turn addiction in no time. NCPG once published an article in the U.S exposing some mouth-dropping facts that clearly show that over 6 million people in the country struggle with compulsive gambling.

Addiction is no respecter of anyone. Just because you can control your craving for casino games doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to the adverse effect of gambling. Some individuals are able to cut their losses and move on; the majority cannot. They become entangled in a vicious circle of addiction – the looped phases of gambling, which are winning, losing, and desperation.

The phases were first identified by late Dr. Robert Custer, a psychiatrist who made a name for himself by being the pioneer in the treatment of problem gambling. To understand how addiction starts, one must recognize each phase.

First – The Winning Phase

Have you ever been to Vegas? If yes, then you’ve clearly observed a pattern. A player wins a lump sum of money. The thrill of winning a bet can be contagious and exhilarating.

A compulsive gambler sees this win as a sign to throw in more cash to win a bigger sum – in short, a win will cloud their judgment, making them feel hopeful even though more often than not, it’s unrealistic. At that point, the only thoughts going through their mind is winning, winning, and nothing else. Rather than enjoying the win and leave while the occasion is loud, the urge to play more won’t let them. A common pattern is to put back the cash that was one back into the game – or go for a higher stake.

In this phase, gamblers experience multiple wins. That unrealistic optimism gradually turns sour as time goes by. This is when they move from being a social gambler to a compulsive gambler. Their luck shines until their the losing phase comes knocking.

Second – The Losing Phase

Now when the losing phase comes knocking, it comes gradually. When it comes to this state, compulsive gamblers keep their spirit buoyed, the optimism skyrockets, fueling the hunger of anyone who’s interested – this happens when they can’t stop boasting about their previous jackpot stories. For compulsive gamblers, what stands out is either the big win at the casinos, cashing out at the horse races, or a payout from the slots.

Meanwhile, reality kicks in, and the winning streak starts to drop. At this point, things will begin to go south for a compulsive gambler. This happens in different ways; its either winning games frequently, to a losing streak that gains momentum dramatically. During the losing phase, the following starts to happen.

  • They retreat socially and become a lone gambler.
  • They are usually consumed by the thoughts of increasing their winning chances for their next game.
  • Always thinking about previous wins – the fact that you are always thinking about your previous wins, it means you haven’t won any game recently.
  • Speaking of winning, the comparison to their current situation differs.
  • The story is quite different for compulsive gamblers. During this phase, compulsive gamblers start to:
  • Tell lies to everyone around them.

Sell their properties, beg, take loans, and steal to fund their next gambling activities. That’s not all; they also start to attract different legal problems stemming from their unusual and abnormal means of raising funds for their gambling adventure. We’ve heard stories of gamblers taking money from criminals or banks.

During the losing phase, they are determined to chase their loss and ‘balance their book.’ Unfortunately, when people gamble mainly for the reason of recouping their losses, then they are going to lose more. In a recent post that we published, we talked about how poor decision making and poor judgment greatly contribute to a gambler’s loss.

As you’ve clearly noticed, the losing phase is when the implosion starts to kick in. Things get out of control, and the compulsive gambler. Like a true addict, the next fix is the only thing that matters. Clearly, addiction can never be satisfied – the craving won’t go away, and a compulsive gambler grows in desperation to get the next game. With debts and the memories of huge losses forming a dark cloud over him, he digs deeper, even increases the stake to make up for everything. The last phase kicks in at this point. Desperation sets in, and therein lies the destructive part.

The Final Phase – Desperation

Everything we’ve learned about compulsive gambling will be experienced during this phase. Poor choices start to pile up, and the results are nothing to write home about. The deeper the dip, the worse it gets. The desire to win everything literally destroys it all.

During the desperation phase, a problem gambler experiences guilt and regret the mess they’ve brought upon themselves, but, take no responsibility and blame others for their actions. Unfortunately, the blame game ends up alienating the ones that stood by them during their dark times.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Good news, there is hope! We’ve discussed the three phases and clearly painted a grim picture. If you can relate to this piece, then you probably feel a sense of resentment or resistance – that’s a good sign, work with it and do something about it.

Things may seem bad and hopeless right now; solutions abide if you are ready to search for it. Treatment centers are built for this reason. You also have support groups to lead you through your recovery journey. Remember, the sooner you speak out. No matter how deep you are, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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