Compulsive Gambling Disorder

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Compulsive gambling is a disorder in which a person cannot controlhis or her urge to gamble. Gambling is any betting or wagering carried out for oneself orothers. Gambling depends on skill or chance. It may or may not involve money.Compulsive gambling disorder is an impulse control disorder.

What is going on in the body?

Gambling is thought to be a disorder when a person begins to doit on a regular basis. The person keeps gambling even though it has negative social,financial, interpersonal, or emotional results. He or she may bet on such things as:

  • dog races
  • card games
  • slots
  • dice
  • sports events
  • lotteries
  • bingo
  • the stock market
  • It involves any situation that provides the gambler with action andexcitement.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    A compulsive gambler can be male or female. This condition canaffect any age, race, income, or religion. It is more common among peoplewho also have other compulsive or addictive disorders.Depressionand other mood disordersare also linked with compulsive gambling.

    Legalized gambling is a fast-growing industry in theU.S. People can even gamble easily over the Internet.

    Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    A person is a compulsive gambler if he or she has five or more ofthe following signs and symptoms:

  • after losing money, often returns another day to get even
  • commits illegal acts, such as stealing, to finance gambling
  • gambles as a way to escape from problems
  • jeopardizes or loses an important relationship or job due to gambling
  • lies to family members to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
  • seeks greater and greater risks in gambling in a need to feel theexcitement
  • is preoccupied with gambling and behaviors linked with gambling
  • relies on others to provide money to pay bills
  • has had repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling
  • is restless or irritablewhen trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Compulsive gambling disorder is diagnosed when a person hasfive or more of the symptoms listed above. It differs from professionalgambling or social gambling. Professional gamblers setrisk limits and show self-control. Social gamblers are also able to adhere tolimits they set on their gambling.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    There is no known prevention for compulsive gambling.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Compulsive gambling disorder often leads to:

  • isolation from friends and relatives
  • large financial debts
  • legal problems
  • loss of employment
  • marital problems
  • suicide attempts
  • What are the risks to others?

    In a family where one member has compulsive gambling disorder,financial ruin can result. However, this condition is not catching.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Treatment is often started after a person with compulsivegambling disorder has gotten into legal problems or when family membersconfront the gambler. Once the person seeks treatment, he or she must stopall forms of gambling. Self-help support groups such as Gamblers Anonymoushelp people stop gambling.

    Some evidence exists that fluvoxamine, a type of antidepressant,is effective in helping a person in treatment abstain from gambling. Treatmentof associated disorders, such as depressionor alcoholism,may also help.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects depend on the medicines used. They may includedrowsinessor allergic reactions.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    Relapses are common for compulsive gamblers. During treatment,a financial crisis may occur. Legal problems due to gambling also often begin todevelop during this time.

    How is the condition monitored?

    A compulsive gambler may need to remain in therapy or continuewith Gamblers Anonymous to prevent relapse. Family counseling may be needed.Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.

    Article type: xmedgeneral