Tuesday, December 1, 2009


BY BRIAN SCHAFLIN, L.C.S.W.,P.A. 11-28-2009

The term pathological gambling is used to best describe as having an addiction to gambling. The term is also used to make a diagnosis when an individual meets the criteria of having a problem with gambling. The diagnosis is listed along with many other forms of addictions in a manual called the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders. The criteria for pathological gambling includes: 1. a need to increase the amount of money in order to achieve the desired excitement,2. repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop,3. becomes restless and irritable when trying to cut back, 4.lies to family members, employers, and therapists, 5. has committed illegal acts such as forgery, theft, and fraud and, 6. has jeopardized relationships, job, or career opportunities. There are additional criteria listed but if 5 of the 10 that are noted in the manual are accounted for, the diagnosis of pathological gambling can be made. It is quite easy to see how an addiction to gambling can be a crossover to other forms of addiction. Whether it is alcohol, drugs, food or sex the brain does not differentiate, it ends up in the same place. This point is best made when defining addiction. Upon review of recent studies from the literature on addictions, the following definition is used. The four basic components of addiction include:1 the individual receives some form of pleasure,2 the behavior in seeking out the drug, alcohol, food, or gambling is clearly compulsive,3. there is a loss of control with use or intake, and 4.denial. The denial is not that there is use but of the resulting severity of problems with their use has on their lives.

Pathological gambling does have its own specific components that is important to note. According to the Journal of Gambling Studies there are an estimated 2 million American adults who become compulsive gamblers at some point in their lifetime. The Journal goes on to report that in any given year about 4.8 million Americans are considered problem gamblers. There are common forms of gambling that an individual can develop an addiction to. They include sports betting, lottery, slot machines, and all the other forms of casino gambling.

Pathological gambling also has its specific signs and behaviors. Compulsive gambling habits include: taking time away from family and work, quitting after feeling remorse only to start all over again, gambling until your last dollar is gone, gambling with money needed to pay bills, lying stealing or selling personal valuables to get gambling money, dreaming of the “big win” and gambling when feeling depressed.

In conclusion it is easy to see how gambling can become an addiction similarly to alcohol, drugs, food, and sex. Looking at the four components of addiction best proves the point that gambling can be classified as a disease. Therefore as with alcohol and drugs the treatment for pathological gambling according to the Journal Of Gambling Studies and the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry would include cognitive-behavioral skills training with the individual, family and in groups and if necessary medications. At the same time most professionals would agree that a 12 step recovery program is essential when developing a comprehensive treatment plan.