• Compulsive Gambling

    (Gambling Addiction; Pathological Gambling)

    Definition

    Compulsive gambling is an impulse control disorder that is characterized by an overwhelming urge to gamble. In compulsive gambling, your life becomes dominated by gambling. This can lead to problems with finances, career, and relationships. Compulsive gambling can be treated. Talk with your doctor if you think you have a problem.

    Causes

    It is not clear what causes compulsive gambling. But there is some evidence that there may be a genetic component.
    Research has also show that people who have a gambling addiction experience changes in their brain. These brain changes are like those that occur in people who are addicted to drugs.
    Frontal Lobe
    Frontal lobe
    Impulse control is believed to exist in this part of the brain.
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase the risk of compulsive gambling include:
    • Gender: male
    • Family history of gambling problems
    • Mood disorders
    • Personality disorders
    • Drug abuse or gambling at a young age
    • Certain traits, such as having a competitive character, being restless, and getting bored easily

    Symptoms

    Symptoms of compulsive gambling may include:
    • Gambling longer than you intended to
    • Feeling guilty after gambling
    • Not being able to sleep due to thoughts about gambling
    • Having financial problems due to gambling, such as:
      • Spending all of your money on gambling
      • Needing to borrow money for gambling
      • Trying to earn money through gambling to pay your bills
      • Being involved in illegal activities (eg, stealing) to get money for gambling
    • Trying to quit gambling but not being able to
    • Feeling depressed or suicidal due to gambling

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor may refer you to mental health therapist. The therapist will ask about your:
    • Medical history
    • Mental health history
    • Symptoms

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

    Therapy

    Counseling for compulsive gambling may include cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy can help you learn to correct the the negative thoughts and beliefs that lead you to gamble, find healthier responses to stress, develop social skills, and prevent relapse. Therapy can also help uncover what lead you to compulsively gamble.

    Medications

    There is some evidence that people who compulsively gamble may benefit from medicines, such as:
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • Mood stabilizers
    • Opioid antagonists
    • Bupropion (an antidepressant)

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent compulsive gambling. But if you have a problem with impulse control, avoiding situations where there is gambling may prevent you from developing a problem.

    RESOURCES

    Mental Health America http://www.nmha.org/

    National Council on Problem Gambling http://www.ncpgambling.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/

    Problem Gambling http://www.problemgambling.ca/

    References

    10 questions about gambling behavior. National Council on Problem Gambling website. Available at: http://www.ncpgambling.org/i4a/pages/Index.cfm?pageID=3439. Accessed August 27, 2012.

    Black DW, Monahan PO, Temkit M, et al. A family study of pathological gambling. Psychiatry Res . 2006;141:295-303.

    Dannon PN, Lowengrub K, Gonopolski Y, Musin E, Kotler M. Pathological gambling: a review of phenomenological models and treatment modalities for an underrecognized psychiatric disorder. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry . 2006;8:334-339.

    Kalechstein AD, et al. Pathological gamblers demonstrate frontal lobe impairment consistent with that of methamphetamine dependent individuals. J Neuropsych Clin Neurosci. 2007;19:298-303.

    Signs of problem gambling. Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling website. Available at: http://www.masscompulsivegambling.org/paths/what%5Fsigns.php. Accessed August 27, 2012.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.