Compulsive gambling is the symptom of an emotional disorder. The emotional disabling factors involved are: low self esteem, immaturity, instability and obsessive behavior patterns To the casual observer the compulsive gambler gives the appearance of being an enormously egotistical person. A closer look at his coping style reveals an entirely different picture. The fact that he needs continually to find ways to feed his undernourished ego belies this idea. In the first stages of his compulsive gambling he may want the largest car and the finest clothing available to him, which is his way of reassuring himself of his self worth.
In his struggle to relate to others he creates the image that he is a philanthropist and an all around “good fellow”. He is considered by most to be a very charming, lovable person, a “Good Sam”, so to speak. His family may feel that he has concern for everyone except them. The gambler usually sets unreasonable and unrealistic goals for himself, which in his frustration he is never able to reach. He has a tendency to expect much too much from those around him as well as from himself.
When he is faced with his failures in life, he escapes the frustrations of day by day living through fantasy. He seeks relief from his poor self-image by dreaming of a Monte Carlo type existence filled with friends, new cars, mink coats, penthouses and beautiful women. Pathetically, there seems never to be enough big winnings to make even the smallest dream come true; probably, because whatever monies won, are to him, sacred. He must always return to win more. Ultimately, he gambles in reckless desperation and his dream world brings him no relief. He feels emotional conflict and group acceptance only when gambling. His self destruction is a terrifying experience for his family; it may involve their destruction as well. As his illness progresses, gambling, his problem solving device to relieve anxiety, tension and unpleasantness, fails to anesthetize his pain. Thus his obsession to gamble is accelerated. Through all the various stages he must wear his mask of “happy-go-lucky” fellow.
Most compulsive gamblers cannot admit a need for help until their obsessive, compulsive behavior has made their life intolerable. Each must find his own depth of despair. This could be any number of experiences such as: the loss or threatened loss of the person or thing most important to him. It may be loss of freedom, because of impending incarceration, loss of his family or the final realization of his complete loss of self respect. When his crisis presents itself, and he reaches the point where he is willing to admit his loss of control of gambling and the complete chaos of his life, he will be ready to accept help. He will find the help he needs in Gamblers Anonymous.
If he is to abstain from gambling indefinitely it is necessary that he be in regular attendance in this self-help group. There he will find the identification, emotional comfort, group acceptance, and assistance in the arduous task of changing his life coping style.
If any of the above issues concern you, please contact George MacGregor or your physician for help.
— George MacGregor is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Substance Abuse Specialist for the Montville Counseling Center.
By George P. MacGregor
Specialist in Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Certified Compulsive Gambling Counselor