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Pathological gambling (gambling addiction) affects more than 2 million Americans, with as many as 15 million suffering from some degree of a gambling problem.

Gambling addiction is most commonly seen in younger adults. People with gambling addictions are more likely to have a substance abuse problem and are more at risk for mood disorders like depression. Tragically, gambling addiction is very highly correlated with suicide.

Often, gambling addicts are able to hide their compulsive behaviors better than drug addicts or alcoholics - so, a gambling problem can go undiagnosed for years.

Gambling Addiction Is A Disease

Although nothing is consumed, gambling addiction shares many similarities with substance addictions, and is classified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a disease. Gambling addicts are addicted to the high of the action, and will ultimately chase this high even in the face of great personal destruction, just as an alcoholic will drink in the face of adverse consequences.

The progression from recreational gambling to problem and ultimately pathological gambling can take years - or even decades; it can also occur in as little as a single year. Certain gaming outlets, such as fast paced video lottery terminals, have proven very addictive – and are known as the crack cocaine of gambling for good reason.

Although problem gamblers often endure hardship from their betting, once gambling becomes pathological, the addict no longer controls their actions, and will commit desperate acts to continue to gamble.

Is It Problem or Pathological Gambling?

Answer the following 10 questions honestly to find out if your gambling behavior meets the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling.

  1. Do you think about past betting a lot, spend much time thinking about your next gambling trip – or spend a lot of time thinking about how to get money for gambling?
  2. Have you developed a tolerance to the excitement of betting? (Do you need to bet greater amounts to get the same excitement that smaller amounts used to give you?)
  3. Have you tried on more than one occasion to stop or cut down on your gambling, and failed?
  4. Do you feel edgy or angry, when trying not to gamble?
  5. Do you gamble when feeling down, angry, guilty or anxious?
  6. Do you try to gamble again quickly after losing money, as a way of winning back your losses?
  7. Do you hide or lie about how much you gamble?
  8. Have you ever committed a crime to pay for your gambling?
  9. Has your gambling ever cost you a friendship, love-relationship or job? Has it ever affected school performance?
  10. Have you ever needed to borrow money to pay for gambling losses?

The APA considers 5 or more yes answers a diagnosis of pathological gambling.

Gambling addiction, like alcoholism or drug addiction is a progressive disease - it only gets worse, and the collateral social, economic and personal damages of gambling will also only magnify in time.

Gambling addiction, life drug addiction or alcoholism, is also a very treatable disease, and the earlier treatment begins, the better the long term prognosis.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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