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Alternative namesCompulsive gambling is the inability to resist impulses to gamble, leading to severe personal or social consequences.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Pathological gambling affects 1-3% of adults, men more often than women. It usually begins in adolescence in men and later in women.
This behavior usually progresses from occasional gambling to habitual gambling. The urge to gamble becomes so great that the tension can only be relieved by more gambling. Higher stakes and personal risks become involved, as well as neglect of other interests, family, and work. Severe family problems, financial ruin, and criminal behavior to support the gambling habit may result. The cause for this behavior is not known. One risk factor may be excessive alcohol use which lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment.
Signs and testsA psychological evaluation and history reveals compulsive gambling behavior.
Treatment for the person with compulsive gambling begins with the recognition of the problem. It is often associated with denial, allowing the person to believe there is no need for treatment. Most people affected by compulsive gambling enter treatment under pressure from others, rather than a voluntary acceptance of the need for treatment.
Recently, medications such as antidepressants have been shown to be beneficial in combination with psychotherapy.
Expectations (prognosis)Many people are able to gain control over their lives after undergoing treatment for compulsive gambling.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider or mental health professional if symptoms of compulsive gambling are present.
PreventionPrevention of the urge to develop addictive behavior is challenging and may not always be possible. Counseling may benefit people who are prone to compulsive gambling or other addictive behavior. People with close relatives who are compulsive gamblers might be at higher risk and should be especially careful.
Update Date: 11/10/2003Vineeth John, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT