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Gambling Addiction & Recovery Information

Compulsive gambling is an urge or addiction to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. A preferred term among many professionals is problem gambling, as few people described by the term experience true compulsions in the clinical sense of the word. Problem gambling often is defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others rather than by the gambler's behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria.

Extreme cases of problem gambling may cross over into the realm of mental disorders. Pathological gambling was recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-III, but the criteria were significantly reworked based on large-scale studies and statistical methods for the DSM-IV. As defined by American Psychiatric Association, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, incidence of problem gambling is 2-3% and pathological gambling is 1% in the United States, though this may vary by country. By contrast, 86% of Americans have gambled in their lives and 60% gamble in a given year.

Available research seems to indicate that problem gambling is an internal tendency, and that problem gamblers will tend to risk money on whatever game is availableas opposed to the availability of a particular game inducing problem gambling in otherwise "normal" individuals. However research also indicates that problem gamblers tend to risk money on fast-paced games. Thus a problem gambler is much more likely to lose a lot of money on poker or slot machines, where rounds end quickly and there is a constant temptation to play again or increase bets, as opposed to a state lottery where the gambler must wait until the next drawing to see results.

Health Blogs

You can overcome an addiction by first admitting you have a problem and seeking treatment. "Overcoming" an addiction is different from "curing" an addiction. If you had diabetes and went to a diabetes clinic, you would be "treated" for diabetes. By the same token, addicts are "treated" for a disease called addiction.
Substance addiction is rampant throughout our country, and every year thousands of people die from overdose. Loved ones of the deceased continue to ask the same questions: “Why didn’t he stop using?” or “Didn’t she know it would eventually kill her?” These types of questions imply that an actual choice is involved with addiction. ... Read More »
Substance abuse disorders are interesting disorders. They are hallmarked by denial and minimization. When a family member has concerns about a loved one’s substance use confronting them, while important, may lead to more frustration regarding the substance use.

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Dr. Kimberly Dennis
Psychiatrist,
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

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