Gambling Disorders - Diagnosis

Describe the events that led to a gambling disorder diagnosis.

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How is a gambling addiction diagnosed?

The first step to obtaining appropriate treatment is accurate diagnosis, which requires a complete physical and psychological evaluation to determine whether the person may have a gambling addiction. Since some medical conditions, can cause an individual to develop erratic, impulsive behaviors, including problem gambling, the examining physician should rule out (exclude) these possibilities through an interview, physical examination, and applicable laboratory tests, as well as implementing a full mental-health evaluation. A thorough diagnostic evaluation includes a complete history of the patient's symptoms, during which time the practitioner might ask the following questions:

    1. How old were you when you gambled for the first time?

    2. How much time (how often and for how long each time) do you spend gambling or thinking about gambling?

    3. How much money do you lose/spend gambling?

    4. What kinds of things do you do to finance gambling?

    5. Do you have irresistible urges to gamble?

The doctor usually asks about alcohol and drug use and whether the patient has had thoughts about death or suicide. Further, the history often includes questions about whether other family members have had a gambling problem, and if treated, what treatments they received and which were effective.

A diagnostic evaluation also includes a mental-status examination to determine if the patient's speech, thought pattern, or memory has been affected, as often happens in the case of a many forms of mental illness. As of today, there is no laboratory test, blood test, or X-ray that can diagnose this or any other mental disorder.

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