Compulsive gambling is a disorder that affects millions in the U.S. Symptoms and signs include a preoccupation with gambling, lying to family or loved ones to hide gambling, committing crimes to finance gambling, and risking importance relationships and employment due to gambling. Treatment may incorporate participation in Gamblers' Anonymous, psychotherapy, and medications like carbamazepine, topiramate, lithium, naltrexone, antidepressants, clomipramine, and fluvoxamine.
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Compulsive gambling affects 2%-5% of Americans, can involve a
variety of ways and places to bet, and symptoms may differ somewhat between males
and females, as well as teenagers versus adults.
Although men tend to develop a gambling addiction at a higher rate and at
younger ages than women, women now make up more than one-quarter of all
compulsive gamblers, and women's symptoms tend to worsen faster once compulsive
As opposed to pathological gambling, problem gambling involves more than
one but less than five symptoms of compulsive gambling.
Although direct causes of compulsive gambling are unusual, the manic
episodes associated with bipolar disorder and some medications that treat
Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome have been associated with the
development of this disorder.
Risk factors for pathological gambling include schizophrenia, mood
problems, antisocial personality disorder, alcohol, or cocaine addiction.
The diagnosis of compulsive gambling involves identifying at least five
symptoms that indicate poor impulse control when it comes to gambling, as well
as ruling out other potential causes of the behaviors.
As with any mental-health condition, accurate diagnosis of gambling
addiction requires a complete physical and psychological evaluation, including a
mental-status examination and appropriate laboratory tests to rule out other
possible causes of the symptoms that are being observed.
The treatment of compulsive gambling usually uses more than one approach,
including psychotherapy, medication, financial counseling, support groups,
12-step programs, and self-help techniques.
The prognosis of recovery from compulsive gambling is encouraging with treatment.
Although pathological gambling may resolve with time on its own in many
individuals, the devastating effects it usually has on the person's financial,
family, legal, and mental-health status indicates that treatment should be
attempted by anyone who is motivated to get help for this disorder.
Prevention of compulsive gambling usually involves addressing risk factors and educating the public about the warning signs of this disorder.