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Pathological Gambling

Pathological Gambling is persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior that disrupts personal, family, or vocational pursuits. The individual may be preoccupied with gambling (e.g., reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble). Most individuals with Pathological Gambling say that they are seeking an aroused, euphoric state that the gambling gives them which appears more exhilarating than the money. Increasingly larger bets, or greater risks, may be needed to continue to produce the desired level of excitement.

Persistent, maladaptive gambling is expressed by 5 or more of the following. The patient

Needs to put increasing amounts of money into play to get the desired excitement.
Has repeatedly tried (and failed) to control or stop gambling.
Feels restless or irritable when trying to control gambling.
Uses gambling to escape from problems.
Often tries to recoup loses.
Lies to cover up the extent of gambling.
Has stolen to finance gambling.
Has jeopardized a job or important relationship.
Has had to rely on others for money to relieve the consequences of gambling.
Is preoccupied with gambling.

A Manic Episode doesn't better explain this behavior.

Associated Features:

General Medical Conditions that are associated with stress
Mood Disorders
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Substance Abuse or Dependence
Borderline Personality Disorders

Differential Diagnosis:

Some disorders have similar or even the same symptoms. The clinician, therefore, in his/her diagnostic attempt, has to differentiate against the following disorders which need to be ruled out to establish a precise diagnosis.

Social Gambling
Manic Episode
Antisocial, Narcissistic Personality Disorders


Pathological gamblers were found to exhibit certain physiological traits, such as high energy levels, hyperactivity and high tolerance of stress. The sociological view that pathological gamblers have positive rewards convincing them of the benefits of gambling was supported with evidence of a big win early in the career of the pathological gambler.  

Pathological gambling is very similar in definition and symptoms to substance dependence. Various studies of pathological gamblers in treatment reveal that approximately 50 percent have histories of alcohol or drug abuse. In males, the disorder typically begins in adolescence. Females typically start gambling later in life, are more apt to be depressed, and gamble as a means of escaping the depression. It is not unusual for male gamblers to have a history of 20 to 30 years when they seek treatment, compared with three years for females.  


Treatment for the person with compulsive gambling begins with the recognition of the problem. It is often associated with denial, allowing the person to believe there is no need for treatment. Most people affected by compulsive gambling enter treatment under pressure from others, rather than a voluntary acceptance of the need for treatment. Addicts to gambling need professional help and they should get behavioral therapy. Often this happens too late and the patient has already accumulated large debts.

Counseling and Psychotherapy [ See Therapy Section ]:

Treatment options include individual and group psychotherapy, and self-help support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Abstinence principles that apply to other types of addiction, such as substance abuse and alcohol dependence, are also relevant in the treatment of compulsive gambling behavior.

related books

UK Support Groups

Gamblers Anonymous UK

PO Box 88
SW10 0EU
08700 50 88 80
London: +442073843040
North East: +441142620026
North West: +441619765000
Midlands: +44121 233 1335
Ulster: +442871351329
Email: From Website Form

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