Are You Rolling the Dice on a Gambling Addiction?

The coming months are fraught with sporting events which lure the 6 to 9 million Americans who struggle with a gambling problem[1] in any given year to place their bets

Mar 05, 2012, 06:00 ET from California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists from ,

SAN DIEGO, March 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether it's a March Madness office betting pool[2] or sitting in the sports books in Las Vegas placing bets on the Masters Golf Tournament and opening week of Major League Baseball, the coming months are fraught with sporting events which lure millions of gamblers to place their bets.

Given the tenfold growth of the gambling industry in the U.S. since 1975[3] and the recent surge of online gambling, it is no surprise that 6 to 9 million Americans have a gambling problem in any given year.

"The Internet has created a new frontier of gambling," said Dr. Stephen Grinstead, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), who specializes in addiction. "With the convenience and prevalence of gambling, signs that a person may be struggling with what we refer to as a process addiction to gambling may go undetected. It is important to identify the signs and symptoms of addiction and seek professional help if needed."

With so many opportunities to gamble right at our fingertips, the tips below from the National Training Institute are timely and will help in assessing when gambling could be leading to a process addiction.

  • Preoccupation with Gambling: Spends excessive time or money gambling; Misses events and/or ignores family obligations; Spends free time daydreaming about and planning to gamble; Loses touch with friends.
  • Inability to Meet Monthly Living Expenses: Repeatedly betting and losing more than the limit he/she set for self; Falling behind on rent/mortgage payments; Going without food; Foregoing prescription medications; Always short of money.
  • Lying About Gambling Losses or Whereabouts: Unexplained debts; Secretive about finances; Denial of any problems; May talk about wins, but keeps silent about losses.
  • Severe Mood Swings: High with wins and Devastated by losses; Feeling of emptiness or loss when NOT gambling; Restless, anxious all the time; Hopeless, depressed, suicidal.


According to Dr. Grinstead, a process addiction includes any activity, thought, feeling or relationship one might use to alleviate the personal pain one experiences as intolerable reality. People suffering from gambling addiction also walk the fine line of being addicted to any mind or mood altering substance or process. Some examples of process addictions include gambling addiction, work addiction, sex addiction, relationship/love addiction, and perfectionism.

In contrast, a chemical addiction is a primary, chronic, neurobiologic disease, with genetic, psychosocial, spiritual and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and craving.[4]

If you or someone you love displays any of the signs of a gambling addiction, you can seek professional help from a LMFT who specializes in addiction treatment. Visit to find a LMFT in your area who can help.


The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) is a professional organization dedicated to the advancement of the state's licensed and prelicensed Marriage and Family Therapists and the common interests of its 30,000 members.  CAMFT provides as a free resource for individuals looking for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists located in California.  Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists treat a comprehensive range of issues including depression, anxiety, phobias/fears, elder and child issues, relationship issues, post-traumatic stress, and severe mental illness.  For more information, visit or

[1]  National Problem Gambling Awareness Week. Retrieved March 1, 2012, from

[2]  Most forms of gambling, including betting pools, are illegal in nearly all states

[3]  The National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report, August 3, 1999.

[4]  Definition developed by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. (Savage, Covington, Heit, et al., 2004)

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SOURCE California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists;