A gambling addiction is often not as externally noticeable as other addictions like drugs or alcohol, yet its consequences can be just as devastating. Conversely, when a gambling addiction has become severe, it can lead to symptoms that are very similar in nature to other addictions.
Typically, a gambling addiction manifests in three phases. Developed by Dr. Robert L. Custer, the Custer Three Phase model sees those who suffer from a gambling addiction as going through a winning phase, a losing phase, and a desperation phase.
During the winning phase, gamblers will experience a big win or several smaller wins (or both), and adopt a false belief that their winning streak will continue.
When winning becomes less and less frequent, gamblers may then fall into the losing stage, which is characterized by the gambler borrowing or stealing money, lying to friends and family, and trying desperately to win back their losses. This phase also sees those suffering from the gambling addiction becoming increasingly withdrawn, moody, and unhappy.
Finally, in the desperation phase of a gambling addiction the gambler’s habits begin to noticeably mirror those of other addictions. These include, but are not limited to: remorse, guilt, withdrawal (when not gambling), alienation of friends and family, illegal activity (to pay off debts or support the addiction), abusing other substances, suicidal thoughts or attempts etc.
Two major social issues that must be dealt with in dealing with gambling addiction is that gambling is not usually recognized as an addiction until it is too late, and the proliferation of web sites and literature offering ‘strategies’ that claim to be able to teach anyone ‘how to beat the odds’. While these strategies in all likelihood are not able to do what they promise, they most certainly are able to pave the way to a gambling addiction.