I Have a Gambling Problem
Professor’s comment: This student’s essay is well researched, strongly analytical, and seriously personal. But the essay did not begin as a personal essay—far from it— from major rewriting emerged this fascinating and very effective essay, in which social and personal analysis intertwine.
Hi, my name is ______ and this is my first GamAnon meeting. I am nineteen years old, and I started gambling in junior high, $5 bets with friends. In high school, craps and deuces were the craze. The teachers had no idea. Then I started playing the lottery, hoping to hit the jackpot. Age never really mattered since the vendor never asked to see ID. In my first year of college, I started wagering on sporting events through an online sports book. It was completely legal, even though I was only 18 years old. I have always loved sports and having money on a game made it even more fun, more exciting. At first, it was only $25 or $50 a game, but then things got out of control: I was laying hundreds of dollars on single games. It wasn’t fun anymore. My bank account dwindled from four figures to two. My GPA was half my high school 4.0+. I knew I had a problem, but I just couldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried. That’s why I’m here today. I need help.
I never thought that a friendly wager could lead to such self-destructive behavior. Luckily, I recognized that I had a gambling problem and sought help, unlike the millions of other pathological gamblers who allow their problems to worsen, some eventually becoming involved with drugs, alcohol, and crime (Lesieur 43). Annually, Americans legally wager over five hundred billion dollars—more than they spend on groceries—and illegally bet hundreds of billions more (Reno 43).
Pathological gambling as a national problem did not emerge until the early 1970s. Since then, the number of pathological gamblers steadily increased—until around 1988 when they began to multiply. What led millions like me to start gambling? Psychologists and psychiatrists provide the traditional and widely accepted explanation: individuals are driven to gamble by certain personal psychological factors. This explanation, however, was applied to pathological gambling well before the recent surge of the 1970s; therefore, while this explanation may explain why any given individual may become a pathological gambler, it cannot explain why so many people became pathological gamblers during this time period. Other non-psychological changes must have facilitated increased gambling: technological advancements, new modes of communications, increased media coverage, and other societal factors.
The Pathological Gambler
The severity of the gambling problem varies; pathological gamblers must be distinguished from recreational gamblers —such as those who occasionally purchase a lottery ticket. The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling as “chronic and progressive failure to resist...