Am I a Compulsive Gambler?

Am I a Compulsive Gambler?According to the National Institutes on Health (NIH), compulsive gambling is being unable to resist impulses to gamble, which can lead to severe personal or social consequences. While a specific cause of compulsive gambling is hard to determine, the NIH sees trends that indicate that gambling begins in early adolescence in men and between ages 20 to 40 in women.

Symptoms of Compulsive Gambling

The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling as having five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Committing crimes to get money to gamble
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back or quit gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Gambling larger amounts of money to try to make back previous losses
  • Having had many unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit gambling
  • Losing a job, relationship, or educational or career opportunity due to gambling
  • Lying about the amount of time or money spent gambling
  • Needing to borrow money due to gambling losses
  • Needing to gamble larger amounts of money in order to feel excitement
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about gambling, such as remembering past experiences or ways to get more money with which to gamble

Treating Compulsive Gambling

While no specific treatment prevents compulsive gambling from becoming an addiction, those with a gambling problem should attempt to avoid gambling, interacting with people who gamble or going to places where gambling is prevalent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, denial plays a key role in gambling addiction. Those who are pressured into getting treatment are often less successful than people who acknowledge their addictions and want to get treatment to avoid the physical, emotional, financial, social and interpersonal destruction that their gambling can cause. They also suggest that getting treatment at the earliest sign of a problem may help prevent a gambling disorder from becoming worse.

While the Mayo Clinic indicates that medications can be useful in treating compulsive gambling, they suggest that medication should be only a part of an overall treatment program that would also include the following help:

  • Psychotherapy, such as behavior therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, may be beneficial because through a systematic approach patients can take these actions:
    • Identify unhealthy, irrational and negative beliefs and replace them with healthy, positive ones
    • Unlearn behaviors and learn new skills to reduce the urge to gamble
  • 12-step programs—these programs are particularly effective if you are in the early stages of addiction or if you have completed a comprehensive treatment program and want the support of these programs to avoid relapse

Help for Compulsive Gambling

You may be questioning your gambling behaviors in an attempt to determine whether you have a gambling addiction. We can explore your feelings, concerns, and behaviors with you. We can also provide you information about getting help. We are available 24 hours a day at a toll-free helpline to answer any questions you might have about gambling addiction treatment programs. We are here to help.