Is compulsive gambling progressive? The cycle of a gambler

Does gambling addiction get worse over time? Yes. Here we present a diagram and explanation of the step-by-step progression of a typical gambling addict over time.

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The cycle of compulsive gambling

In a previous post, Signs of Slot Machine Addiction, I promised to share the actual step-by-step progression of a typical gambling addict. As you can see from the chart, this cycle is set up over many years and many decisions.

Predisposed factors of a problem gambler

The progression of problem gambling starts at a very young age and each person’s length of journey is unique and dependent on many factors. However, compulsive gambling always starts with seeking fun and excitement, each opportunity to win is addictive and may create an addictive compulsive behavior.

Starting at the “Begins” BOX in the top left corner and following the arrows, you will notice three key factors that tend to be set in place that will cause an individual to be predisposed with a high probability of becoming an addict. These predisposing factors are:

1. Personality traits
2. Family factors
3. Biological factors

Chasing gambling losses

When a person begins to lose at the casino, the tracks, or in the sports betting hall, and sometimes loses big, loss usually starts the cycle of shame associated with compulsive gambling. Instead of getting help, a compulsive gambler will chase the losses and jump right back into the world of gambling. Each time s/he becomes more in debt with credit cards, borrows from friends and family members, and quite often becomes a theft and liar.

On average, the problem gambler who seeks help for gambling addiction in a treatment setting is already $40,000.00 in debt. They have deceived those closest to them and isolated themselves from most people.

Decision time for the compulsive gambler

You will notice that men and women with a gambling problem then come to the point of having to decide: “Which way do I go? Continue gambling or stop gambling?” It is here where all the key decisions are made. Most of the time, the compulsive gambler will avoid all consequences and go right back to gambling. Each trip around the cycle brings a deeper commitment to the behavior until negative consequences are forced upon them, which in turn swings the gambler back into the gambling cycle.

Shame drives the cycle of addiction

Watch out for shame. Shame drives the cycle of addiction and in most cases, extreme consequences must take place before help is sought.

Help for gambling

If you see yourself in this cycle of addiction to gambling and are ready to stop and surrender, I suggest that you get help from a trained counselor who can help restore what is left of your relationships. If you don’t have the finances for counseling, then you can join 12 step groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery at a location near you. Here you can learn about your behavior and gain wisdom from those who have successful ahead of you.

I would to hear your story. If you can share your struggles and successes you might help others who read this.

About the author
Dr. Jackson received his Doctorate in Christian Counseling from Omega Bible Institute and Seminary in 2009. He developed the Christian recovery treatment programs for Calvary Rehab Center and the Genesis Center for Recovery. He has trained and practiced Christian Counseling in all areas of drug/alcohol/gambling/sex and relationship addictions. He currently has his own web based online program called 12 Day Rehab Systems, designed for those who can work on recovery while maintaining career and family obligations. Dr. Jackson has been clean and sober since 1984. Learn more about Recovery with Dr. Steve.
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