Compulsive gambling, like substance abuse, is characterized by preoccupation, narrowing of interests, habitual behavior, dishonesty, and loss of control.
Ten criteria, from preoccupation to bailout, guide the diagnosis for compulsive gambling, clinically defined as “pathological gambling” by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). (To view the APA criteria, visit About Compulsive Gambling.)
Compulsive gambling often starts quietly with increasing losses and self-esteem jeopardized, resulting in the gambler's need to continue betting in hopes of breaking even. Ultimately, desperation sets in and the eventual destruction of the gambler's personal life, family relationships, and career. Suicidal tendencies and thoughts are also common among this population.
The good news is that compulsive gambling is treatable for those who seek help. For assistance or information for a gambling problem, call the FCCG 24-hour confidential HelpLine (888-ADMIT-IT).