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A Clinical Picture of Pathological Gambling

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There are many different forms of gambling with casinos, betting on horse tracks (legal or not), lotteries, numbers games, cards, dice games, and bingo, which may account for the increasing number of compulsive gamblers. No one can account the real sum that changes hands in legalized gambling, but estimates show that the gamblers in the United States alone lose more than $20 billion annually.

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If gambling is defined in its broadest sense, then count stock marketing in as one of them - the stock market also operates like a game of chance. This definition doesn't mean, however, that there are pathological gamblers in the stock market. In this case, there should be a more precise definition of gambling. Thus, we should say that when you wager for on a horse to win, that's gambling; if you bet that you can get three kings, that's entertainment; but if you bet a stock would go up two points, now that's business.

In any event, there's no doubt that gambling is almost every nation's pastime, with at least 50% of the adult population having gambled once in their lives, in the form of betting in a late Thursday night poker game, or a basketball championship. This is harmless if you look at it as leisure, win or lose, that's it. However, there are some people - well, that's 6 to 10 million Americans, for example - who gamble and then can't go on with their lives. To illustrate, read the following case:

Joe is a 45-year-old man. He operates a car dealership that he inherited from his father. For one and a half years now he has neglected his management of the shop because of the time he spends gambling. Now is in debt as a result of his losses. Since he was in his twenties he has been gambling heavily, which had cost him his first marriage. In his second marriage, he never told his wife about his gambling disorder; because he couldn't attend to his responsibilities, his second wife left him, too.

Joe then joined an encounter group that could help him resolve his problem. In his first few sessions, he proved to be an intelligent man who seemed to grasp his own disorder. He admitted getting excited when gambling. He narrated that the first time he gambled was when he won big in a race track. With this, he was convinced that his income can increase by gambling regularly. This led him to play poker games, frequent trips to Las Vegas, and horse betting, which all resulted in big losses.

Apparently, even with the encounter group Joe wasn't willing to make constructive steps in dealing with his problem. Soon he found the sessions irrelevant. Consequently, he went back to gambling and lost even more. His business is now bankrupt, and Joe left to live in another state.

Gamblers like Joe are ones who have adversely affected their psychological, social, and economic well-being of themselves and their families.

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