Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, may be a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.” Problem and pathological gambling may affect anywhere from 2 to 4 percent of the population.
Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
Preoccupation: The person is preoccupied with gambling and has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble, etc.
Tolerance: Similar to drug tolerance, the person needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement or “rush”
Loss of Control: The person has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling
Withdrawal: The person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
Escape: The person gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)
Chasing: After losing money gambling, the person often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
Lying: Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
Illegal Activity: The person has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling
Risked Relationships: The person has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
Bailout: Relies on others, such as friends or family, to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling
The gambling behavior is not better accounted for by a Manic Episode
Note: This disorder is now less-considered an impulse-control disorder according to the updated DSM-IV. It is now classified as a Non-Substance-Related Disorder, which means it is conceptualized more as an addictive behavior.
Psych Central. (2014). Pathological Gambling Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 27, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/pathological-gambling-symptoms/
Symptom criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Apr 2014
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