Since the advent of the internet, gamblers can enjoy a wide variety of action from their home computers or even, their hometowns. This becomes a problem when the impulse to win and take risks distorts reality and causes a gambling addiction. Once begun, a gambling addiction has a snowballing effect which leaves the addict helpless in seeing a way out besides taking more risks. Tremendous guilt and shame perpetuate the problem because in the delusional mind of the addict the next risk will definitely fix everything. Because gambling debts mount and illegal means of obtaining money to support their habit are sought, compulsive gamblers have the power to affect their entire families lives. Treatment, when sought, is effective in restoring individuals to a normal life.
Pathological gambling is known to go through three phases; the winning phase, the losing phase, and the desperation phase. The winning phase often includes a sequence of wins or one big win which leaves the gambler with an unrealistic sense of indestructibility and an increased excitement for risk. The losing phase consists of denial about a problem and denial towards family and friends. Addicts at this stage also become restless, withdrawn, are more easily irritated, and start to borrow money from friends, family, and loan sharks. Debts at this stage start mounting and gamblers often seek compensation with more gambling, convinced that they will win their losses back. The desperation phase is defined by an increase time spent gambling. At this stage, regret, blaming others , and distancing from family and friends often occurs. This stage includes feelings of utter helplessness, thoughts and attempts of suicide, alcohol or drug abuse, problems with the law, divorce, or a complete emotional breakdown.
Studies show that about three percent of the adult populace are pathological gamblers. These individuals will probably experience serious problems with debt, family, unemployment, and criminal activity. Studies also suggest that teens are about three times more likely than adults to become compulsive gamblers. Help includes delivering cognitive-behavioral treatments, and applying brief screening and intervention strategies for heavy problem gamblers.