What is Pathological Gambling?
Pathological gambling is seen by many as the dark side of a popular American pastime; to understand if your gambling has become a problem, it is important to know the answer to the question "What is pathological gambling?" Often referred to as compulsive gambling, or a gambling addiction, pathological gambling is defined by the American Psychological Association as having five or more of a group of symptoms that show the inability to resist impulses to gamble, resulting in severe personal or social consequences. These symptoms, answers to the question are as follows:
- Engaging in criminal activity to obtain gambling funds
- Becoming irritable when trying not to gamble
- Using gambling as an escape from feelings of anxiety or sadness
- Increasing bets in order to make back previous losses
- Unsuccessful attempts to quit gambling
- Losing a job, relationship, or educational opportunity because of gambling
- Lying about money lost or time spent gambling
- Needing to borrow money to get by due to gambling losses
- Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about gambling
So what is pathological gambling psychologically? Many psychologists and therapists believe pathological gambling shares features with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but that it is its own condition. Complications associated with compulsive gambling may include alcohol abuse and drug problems, anxiety, depression, and social and legal problems.
What is pathological gambling treated with? The first treatment step is to recognize that there is a problem, as pathological gambling is often associated with extreme denial. After that, cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be effective, along with the use of self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Studies are still out on what medications may be effective in the treatment of pathological gambling.
The outlook for those diagnosed with pathological gambling is that the problem will increase without the proper treatment. The good news is that the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and self-help groups has been successful in the treatment of many sufferers, and research is being conducted into the use of certain antidepressants as a treatment measure. This article should not be used as a diagnosis; if you believe you or someone you know may have a problem, it is important to contact a certified medical professional.