The following signs and symptoms indicate compulsive gambling:

  • increasing the frequency and the amount of money gambled

  • spending the majority of free time thinking about gambling
  • spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of personal or family time
  • being preoccupied with gambling or with obtaining money with which to gamble
  • feeling a sense of euphoria, an aroused sense of action or a high from gambling
  • continuing to gamble despite negative consequences such as large losses, or work or family problems caused by gambling
  • gambling as a means to cope with uncomfortable feelings
  • “chasing” or the urgent need to keep gambling, often with larger bets or the taking of greater risks in order to make up for a loss or series of losses
  • borrowing money to gamble, taking out secret loans or maximizing credit cards
  • bragging about wins but not talking about losses
  • frequent mood swings—higher when winning, lower when losing
  • gambling for longer periods of time with more money than originally planned
  • lying or secretive behavior to cover up extent of gambling

Normal Gambling vs. Pathological or Compulsive Gambling

Gambling is defined as any betting or wagering for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or “skill.” Gambling is classified into four types: social, professional, problem and pathological.

Social gambling typically occurs with friends or coworkers. The gambling lasts for a limited period of time and the losses are predetermined and reasonable. In professional gambling, the risks are limited and discipline is exercised.

Problem gambling is marked by:

  • preoccupation
  • narrowing of interests
  • continued behavior despite adverse consequences
  • failed attempts to cut down

Pathological gamblers:

  • have distortions of thinking such as denial, superstitions, overconfidence or a sense of power and control

  • believe that money is the cause of and the solution to all of their problems
  • tend to be highly competitive, energetic, restless and easily bored
  • tend to be generous to the point of mania or extravagance
  • often are workaholics or binge workers who wait until the last moment before working hard