HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

Section V–Common Health Problems

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There are a number of ways to gamble.

Buying lottery and raffle tickets
Betting on sports events, horse races, etc.
Using slot machines, playing craps, blackjack, poker, etc.

For most people, gambling is a social event done for recreation. It is often done with family or friends and lasts a limited time. An acceptable amount of money that can be lost is decided upon ahead of time and is adhered to. In this case, gambling doesn’t control the person’s behaviors.

For as much as 1-3% of all adults, though, gambling can be a real problem. When gambling is constant and disrupts a person’s life, it is called pathological gambling. This type of gambling usually begins in the early teen years for males and later in life for females. It may follow years of social gambling, but then may be set into motion by a stressful event or greater exposure to gambling.

gambling can be a real problem that disrupts a person's life.

A pathological gambler becomes addicted to gambling. Often the gambling addict:

Abuses alcohol or drugs
Sleeps poorly
Is prone to stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, headaches and mood disorders, such as depression
Has thoughts about suicide
Gambles constantly
Wants to have wealth and material goods without working hard to get them
Thinks that money is both the cause of and solution to all of their problems
Feels important or “in control” and over-confident while betting
Is often generous to the point of extravagance
Is highly competitive, energetic, restless and gets bored easily
Continues betting until they have lost all the money they have, confident they can beat the system
Makes promises to give up their habit, but returns to gambling, usually using their savings or borrowing money to do so

Problems often occur as a result of compulsive gambling. These include:

Ruined marriages
Strained social relationships
Lost careers
Flunking classes
Trouble with the law
Financial problems, such as the loss of life savings and/or a home, inability to pay creditors, possible bankruptcy
Health problems due to insomnia, skipped meals, depression, and anxiety

Questions to Ask

Do you have any of these problems?

  • You are pre-occupied with gambling. You dwell on past gambling experiences, plan future gambling bouts and/or think about ways to get money to gamble with.
  • You need to increase the amount of money you gamble with to get a desired level of excitement.
  • You have tried to control, cut back, or stop gambling without success.
  • You are restless or irritable when you try to cut down or stop gambling.
  • You gamble to escape problems or relieve negative feelings.
  • You gamble as a way to get even for past gambling losses.
  • You lie to others to hide how involved you are with gambling.
  • You have done an illegal act to get money for gambling (e.g., theft, fraud, forgery).
  • You have lost a job, career opportunity, or a relationship because of gambling.
  • You rely on others to give you money to bail you out from a financial loss due to gambling.


Do you gamble only during a manic episode, a distinct period in which your mood is abnormally and constantly elevated and irritable?





Educate yourself. Learn all you can about gambling and the effects of gambling.
Enlist the help of family and friends to help you engage in non-gambling activities.
When you feel compelled to gamble, do another activity, such as exercising, taking a warm bath or shower, or a hobby.
When you do gamble, determine the amount of money you can afford to spend. Only take this amount with you.
Get involved in school, church, and community activities to distract yourself from gambling.
Plan vacations where gambling is prohibited.

What You Can Do for a Friend or Relative

Confront them with the issue. Tell them that you know about their gambling problem. Do so without using threats or insults.
View gambling as an illness as you would other addictions. Think of the gambler as a “sick patient” who needs professional help.
Stop being an “enabler.” Cut off the gambler’s money supply. Do not ask relatives or friends for money, lie to creditors, obtain loans for the gambler, etc.


Copyright 2004, 5th Edition, American Institute for Preventive Medicine. All rights reserved.

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March 16, 2007