Pathological Gambling

Gambling, or the practice of betting and thus risking the loss of one’s money, is considered an extremely risky pastime. People are often cautioned about the lure of casinos before making trips to resort towns such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City because it is easy to lose a small fortune on little vacations. Gambling can be fun in moderation, but there are many people who cannot control themselves because they have a compulsive gambling disorder called pathological gambling. Pathological gambling is extremely dangerous for one’s personal and professional life and puts one at huge economic risk.

Quick Facts:

  • Individuals with addiction problems to any substance are at a higher risk for developing a gambling problem than those without any addiction problems.
  • Individuals with serious mental/emotional disorders, like depression, are at a high risk of becoming pathological gamblers.
  • High school and college students are more at risk for becoming pathological gamblers than the rest of the adult population.
  • Pathological gamblers will bet on anything, legal or not.
  • Gambler’s Anonymous reported that 50% of its members had stolen money for gambling.

Diagnosing Pathological Gambling

Symptoms in individuals who suffer from pathological gambling often begin in the teenage years for men and between the ages of 20 to 40 for women. Pathological gamblers start out as recreational gamblers who speculate occasionally; they often lose control of their gambling when stressful situations arise in their lives and they begin using use gambling as an escape. Pathological gambling is a type of impulse control disorder where individuals have moments of compulsion or craving, lose control around gambling and continue their behavior despite the presence of adverse consequences for their behavior. Once gambling becomes a compulsive thing for an individual, it is not uncommon for them to eventually need to gamble extremely large sums of money to feel the excitement associated with taking a risk. This obviously makes the situation much more dangerous and potentially damaging. Pathological gamblers are loath to admit that they have a problem even when it is apparent; compulsive gambling frequently leads to the deterioration of an individual’s family and work life, but it is nevertheless difficult to convince a pathological gambler that he/she needs help.

Treating Pathological Gambling

The most effective methods of treatment for pathological gambling includes counseling, a step-based program, group-support programs, medication, or a combination of some of the aforementioned. While there is no medication that is approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for the treatment of pathological gambling, it is said that a variety of support groups are considered to be exemplary choices to help a person overcome their addicition. Gamblers Anonymous is a combination of a peer-support program and a step-based program that is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous that is considered effective in helping pathological gamblers overcome their gambling problems and once again lead a healthy and happy life.


  • Medicine Plus – Pathological gambling overview and information

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