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PostSubject: Compulsive gambling    Compulsive gambling  EmptySun Jan 23, 2011 5:49 pm

Compulsive gambling
Filed under: Boomer's Health
Compulsive gambling is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite
the toll it takes on your life. If you're prone to compulsive gambling,
you may continually chase bets, lie or hide your behavior, and resort to
theft or fraud to support your addiction.

Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives.
Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many
compulsive gamblers have found help through professional treatment.



Signs and symptoms of compulsive (pathologic) gambling include:

* Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks
* Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks
* A preoccupation with gambling
* Reliving past gambling experiences
* Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness, guilt or depression
* Taking time from work or family life to gamble
* Concealing gambling
* Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling
* Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
* Failed efforts to cut back on gambling
* Lying to hide gambling

Compulsive gambling typically begins in the late teen years. On rare
occasions, gambling becomes a problem with the very first wager. But
more often, a gambling problem progresses over time. In fact, many
people spend years enjoying social gambling without any problems. But
more frequent gambling or life stresses can turn casual gambling into
something much more serious. During periods of stress or depression, the
urge to gamble may be especially overpowering. Eventually, a person
with a gambling problem becomes almost completely preoccupied with
gambling and getting money to gamble.

For most compulsive gamblers, betting isn't as much about money as it is
about the excitement. Sustaining the thrill gambling provides usually
involves taking increasingly bigger risks and placing larger bets. Those
bets may involve sums you can't afford to lose. Unlike most casual
gamblers, compulsive gamblers are compelled to keep playing to recoup
their money — a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time.

When to see a doctor or mental health provider
Have family members, friends or co-workers expressed concern about your
gambling? If so, listen to their worries. Because denial is almost
always a characteristic of compulsive or addictive behavior, it may be
difficult for you to recognize that you have a problem and seek

Gambling is out of control if:

* It's affecting your relationships, your finances or your work life
* You're devoting more and more time and energy to gambling pursuits
* You've unsuccessfully tried to stop or cut back on your gambling
* You try to conceal your gambling from family or health professionals
* You resort to theft or fraud to get gambling money
* You ask others to bail you out of financial woes because you've gambled money away


Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn't well
understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a
combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.

©1998-2011 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
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Risk factors

Compulsive gambling affects both men and women and cuts across cultural
and socio-economic lines. Although most people who play cards or wager
never develop a gambling problem, certain factors are more often
associated with compulsive gamblers:

* Other behavior or mood disorders. People who seem to gamble
compulsively often have substance abuse problems, mood and personality
disorders, as well as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Many compulsive gamblers abuse alcohol, and many compulsive gamblers
experience major depression.
* Age. Compulsive gambling is more common in younger people.
* Sex. Compulsive gambling is more common in men than women. Women
who do gamble typically start later in life, are more apt to have
depression and gamble as a way of escape from problems, and may become
addicted more quickly.But in recent years, gambling patterns among men
and women have become more similar.
* Family influence. If your parents had a gambling problem, the chances are greater that you will too.
* Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease. Medications called
dopamine agonists have a rare side effect that results in compulsive
behavior in some people.
* Certain personality characteristics. Being highly competitive, a
workaholic, restless or easily bored may increase your risk.

©1998-2011 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
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Compulsive gambling can have profound and long-lasting consequences for your life, including:

* Relationship problems
* Financial problems, including bankruptcy
* Legal problems or incarceration
* Job loss or professional stigma
* Development of associated problems, such as alcohol or drug abuse
* Suicide

©1998-2011 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
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Preparing for your appointment

If you've made the choice to seek help for your gambling, you've taken
an important first step. Start by talking to your primary care doctor.
If it seems that you have a serious problem, you'll likely be referred
to a mental health provider for further evaluation and treatment. These
suggestions can help you get the most from your appointments:

* Write down all the feelings you're experiencing, even if they seem
unrelated to your problem. Be sure to note what triggers your gambling,
whether you've tried to resist the urge to gamble, and the effect that
gambling has had on your life.
* Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
* Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or
supplements, that you're taking. Better yet, take the original bottles
and a written list of the dosages and directions.

Tests and diagnosis

To be diagnosed with compulsive gambling, you must meet the symptom
criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric
Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental
conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM criteria for the diagnosis of compulsive gambling require that at
least five of the following signs and symptoms must be present:

* Being preoccupied with gambling, such as reliving past gambling experiences or planning ways to get gambling money
* Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to become excited
* Trying to cut back on gambling, without success
* Getting restless or irritable when attempting to cut down on gambling
* Gambling as a way to escape problems or to relieve feelings of helplessness or sadness
* Chasing losses, or trying to get back lost money by gambling more
* Lying to family members, therapists or others to hide the extent of gambling
* Committing fraud, theft or other illegal acts for the sake of gambling
* Jeopardizing or losing an important relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
* Turning to others for money when the financial situation becomes desperate

Because excessive gambling can sometimes be a sign of bipolar disorder,
mental health providers are careful to rule out this disorder before
making a diagnosis.

Treatments and drugs

Treating compulsive gambling can be challenging. That's partly because
most people have a hard time admitting they have a problem. Yet a major
component of treatment is working on acknowledging that you're a
compulsive gambler. If your family or your employer pressured you into
therapy, you may find yourself resisting treatment. But treating a
gambling problem can help you regain a sense of control — and perhaps
even help heal damaged relationships or finances.

Treatment for compulsive gambling involves three main approaches:

* Psychotherapy. Psychological treatments, such as behavior therapy
or cognitive behavioral therapy, may be beneficial for compulsive
gambling. Behavior therapy uses systematic exposure to the behavior you
want to unlearn (gambling) and teaches you skills to reduce your urge to
gamble. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying unhealthy,
irrational and negative beliefs and replacing them with healthy,
positive ones.
* Medications. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may help
problems that often go along with compulsive gambling — such as
depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or ADHD — but not necessarily
compulsive gambling itself. Medications called narcotic antagonists,
which have been found useful in treating substance abuse, may help treat
compulsive gambling.
* Self-help groups. Some people find self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a helpful part of treatment.

Even with treatment, you may return to gambling, especially if you spend
time with people who gamble or in gambling environments. If you feel
that you'll start gambling again, contact your care provider or sponsor
right away to head off a full-blown relapse.

Coping and support

The appeal of gambling is hard to overcome if you keep thinking that
you'll win the next time you gamble. Here are some recovery skills that
may help you remain focused on resisting the urges of compulsive

* Tell yourself that it's too risky to gamble at all. One bet typically leads to another and another.
* Give yourself permission to ask for help, as part of realizing
that sheer willpower isn't enough to overcome compulsive gambling.
* Stay focused on your No. 1 goal: not to gamble. Coping skills to
better manage the other issues in your life can be initiated only when
you aren't gambling.
* Recognize and then avoid situations that trigger your urge to bet.

Family members of compulsive gamblers can get counseling, even if the gambler is unwilling to participate in therapy.


There's no proven way to prevent a gambling problem from occurring or
recurring. But if you have risk factors for compulsive gambling,
avoiding gambling in any form, people who gamble and places where
gambling occurs may help. Getting treatment at the earliest sign of a
problem may help prevent a gambling disorder from becoming worse.

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