Learn More About Compulsive Gambling
Compulsive gambling, also called problem gambling, is an urge to gamble despite negative consequences or a wish to stop. Compulsive gamblers experience true addiction in the clinical sense of the word. Compulsive gambling often is defined by the harm experienced by the gambler rather than by his behavior. Severe compulsive gambling may be defined as clinical pathology if the subject meets certain criteria.
Extreme cases of compulsive gambling may pass to the realm of mental disorders. In the DSM-III, pathological gambling was recognized as a psychiatric disorder. For the DSM-IV the criteria were significantly reworked based on statistical methods and large-scale studies. Pathological gambling is now defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior that meets at least five of the following criteria unless these behaviors are better explained by a manic episode:
- The subject experiences tolerance. He requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same excitement.
- The subject has frequent thoughts about past, future, or fantasy gambling experiences.
- The subject gambles to improve his mood or escape from his problems.
- The subject gambles in an attempt to recover gambling losses.
- The subject attempts to hide his extent, lying to family, friends, or therapists.
- The subject has attempted to reduce gambling, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
- The subject experiences irritability or restlessness associated with attempts to stop or reduce gambling.
- Gambling endangers the subjects serious relationship, job or another opportunity, but he continues gambling.
- The subject has broken the law to obtain money for gambling or recover gambling losses.
- The subject turns to friends, family, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling.
This definition of pathological gambling is widely accepted and internationally used as a basis for clinical practice and research.
In the United States, the incidence of compulsive gambling is 2-3 percent and pathological gambling is 1 percent, though these statistics may vary by country. 86 percent of Americans have gambled in their lives and 60 percent gamble in a given year.