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According to an article published in the Journal of Gambling Studies in 1996 by R. A. Volberg, pathological gambling has increased to 3% of the population in the United States in the past 20 years. Pathological gambling is associated with such negative effects as depression and crimes of profit to name a few. According to published materials on pathological gambling by Robert Custer, M.D., the pathological gambler goes through 4 phases and Richard Rosenthal, M.D. adds an additional phase entitled the "Hopeless Give Up Phase".

Phase 1 : "The Preparatory Period" gamblers that exhibit the following traits may become compulsive gamblers:

  1.  A fragile ego, unable to accept rejection 

  2.  A tendency to be impulsive.

  3. A tendency to be overly anxious and depressed

  4. Low tolerance and a need for immediate gratification

  5. A tendency to cling to unrealistic/magical thinking.

  6. High energy level, restlessness, need for excitement, stimulation and risk.

Phase 2: "Winning Phase" the gambler may spend a longer time in euphoria because of "big wins/significant wins." 

  1. More frequent wins 

  2. Increased gambling

  3. Fantasies about winning/big-shotism

  4. Unreasonable optimism

  5. Bragging about wins 

  6. Occasional gambling 

  7. Excitement prior to and with gambling 

  8. Increased amount of money bet

  9. Big or significant wins


Phase 3: "Losing Phase" this phase is recognized by family and/or legal problems losing or changing friends, job problems and significant debt occurs. 

  1. Gambling alone

  2. Constant thoughts about gambling

  3. Losing binges

  4. Loss of control

  5. Borrowing legally

  6. Covering up/lying

  7. Missing work

  8. Caring less about the welfare of family

  9. Personality changes 

  10. Irritability

  11. Restlessness

  12. Emotional withdrawal

  13. Delays and/or inability in paying debts

  14. Unhappy home life

  15. Heavy borrowing (legally/illegally)

  16. Bailouts


Phase 4: "Desperation Phase" in this phase divorces, loss of jobs, geographical changes, embezzlement, fraud, theft, physical problems, death which usually occurs most of the time from suicide. 

  1. Tarnished reputation

  2. Alienation from friends and family

  3. Marked increase in amount and time spent gambling 

  4. Blaming others 

  5. Remorse 

  6. Panic 

  7. Illegal acts


Phase 5. "Hopeless, Give Up Phase" 

  1. Hopelessness

  2. Suicide thoughts and attempts 

  3. Arrests

  4. Divorce

  5. Alcohol/chemical use 

  6. Emotional breakdown 

  7. Withdrawal symptoms

Gambling problems can be treated.  Treatment for gambling problems consist of:

  1. Assessment to determine the extent of the problem.

  2. Individual counseling

  3. Group counseling that includes support groups specific for gambling problems.

  4. Family counseling

  5. Financial planning


Fax Number
Problem Gambling Program
Prevention Services
Adult Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Services
Adolescent Outpatient Treatment Services
(618) 833-4456
(618) 833-2371
(618) 833-2194
(618) 833-4460
(618) 833-2194
(618) 833-4465

Licensed by the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and certified by Medicaid.

Funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the Federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Fund.