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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 available—as 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.

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It is hard to determine how the disease of addiction will affect someone or whose life it will consume. However, when you know the factors involved that may predispose someone to this disease, we can begin to make choices that eliminate the risks for addiction. One can choose not to drink in college if their father was an alcoholic.
In the comments section, tell us what your New Year's Resolutions are! We'd love to know. Here at DailyStrength, we're big believers in affirmative thinking. That's why we really believe that this is the year that you make a positive change in your life--and you should too! In fact, that's tip number ... Read More »
If the thought of giving up a habit for a week produces anxiety, then you may have a problem. There are many definitions of substance abuse, but I have a favorite one that a wise attending physician taught me during medical school. He said that when patients ask him if they need to cut back on something, he would reply, “ If I tell you that ... Read More »

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Dr. Kimberly Dennis
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Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

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