Problem gambling is a generic term used to identify gambling addiction. It encompasses what is now seen as a progressive psychological disease and addiction to gambling, which, when befitting particular categories, may fall under compulsive or pathological gambling.

Problem gambling, in general, refers to the particular gambling behavior that leads to disturbances in psychological, social, physical, or occupational areas. This means that proclivity towards gambling is not necessarily problem gambling until the behavior manages to disrupt the capacity of the person to perform his or her duties and function as a productive member of society.

Problem gambling is also known as ludomania, and its diagnosis is more pointed towards the harm experienced by the gambler and the people around him than the behavior of the gambler per se. In other words, measuring problem gambling involves identifying the amount of harm—financial, physical, or psychological—he or she has inflicted on his or her self and other people. However, while the gambler’s individual behavior is not the first telling sign of problem gambling, those who have been diagnosed with problem gambling are said to experience compulsions and urges to gamble, most of which they are unable to control.

As such, the diagnosis of problem gambling involves measuring the incapacity to limit money and time spent on gambling, and the consequential harm resulting from such to his or her self and the people around him.

There are two types of problem or compulsive gambling. The first one is action gambling. In this type of compulsive gambling, the person uses gambling as a means to engage in the thrill of a high-risk activity. This makes gambling more or less parallel to other substances used by addicts in order to derive a level of pleasure from thrill, risk, and excitement. Usually, action gamblers compulsively gamble in the company of other people, precisely because they enjoy the acclaim they receive from others and obsessively seek being seen as a winner over other gamblers.

The second type of problem gambling is escape gambling. In this type, the gambler engages in gambling as a form of escape from other perturbing psychological or social problems. Thus, gambling is seen as a panacea and coping mechanism for a problem with bigger personal impact on the gambler. Escape gamblers enjoy the numbing feeling of the recurring stages in gambling, and appreciate the loneliness they can enjoy from games that they can enjoy on their own. Usually, females engage in escape gambling, with slot machines as their most popular weapon of choice.

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