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The Three Phases of Problem Gambling

http://www.calproblemgambling.org/phases.html

There are three distinct stages people with gambling problems go through before they "hit bottom" and realize they need help. It begins with the "Winning" Phase.

Phase I - Winning
Gambling begins as a social activity. It seems fun, normal. During this phase, people:

  • sometimes win large amounts of money;
  • feel invincible, so they bet bigger amounts because they believe they will win even more;
  • bet even more to maintain the excitement level.

But gambling isn't always about money. Problem gamblers like the excitement of gambling, the dream of winning big, or the escape from everyday problems or stresses.

Phase 11 - Losing
This is where the real trouble begins. During this phase, gamblers feel like their activity is under control. In reality, it is not. They:

  • seek more action;
  • believe they can quit whenever they want to -- but see no need to quit;
  • gamble to win back what they've lost (Chasing);
  • gamble and then lie about it;
  • hide their losses;
  • take out loans so they can continue;
  • break their promises to quit;
  • borrow from family and friends;
  • have relationships that begin to suffer.

Some problem gamblers attempt suicide before they seek treatment.

Phase III - Desperation
Problem gamblers go through this stage just before they hit rock bottom. They:

  • feel desperation and hopelessness as losses continue to mount;
  • cling to their fantasy of winning -- hoping to make everything well again;
  • finally realize that they can't win, but they keep gambling anyway;
  • have little concern for the people around them;
  • steal, write bad checks, or commit illegal activities to finance their gambling;
  • sometimes have winning episodes but is simply a means of gambling longer;
  • money is like Monopoly money.


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