Gambling Addiction (Compulsive or Pathological Gambling)

Gambling Addiction Summary
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.
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Gambling addiction facts

  • 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 gambling develops.
  • 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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/26/2013

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Gambling Disorders - Causes and Risks Question: If known, what was the cause of your gambling disorder? Did you have a risk factor?
Gambling Disorders - Signs and Symptoms Question: Please discuss the signs and symptoms associated with your gambling disorder.
Gambling Disorders - Diagnosis Question: Describe the events that led to a gambling disorder diagnosis.
Gambling Disorders - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment helped you with your gambling disorder? What medications, if any, did you use?

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