(Gambling Addiction; Pathological Gambling)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Compulsive gambling is an overwhelming urge to gamble. People with this disorder are addicted to gambling. It can cause serious problems in their lives.
The cause of compulsive gambling is not known. Genes may play a role.
Gambling addiction causes changes in the brain. These brain changes are like those that occur in people who are addicted to drugs.
Compulsive gambling is more common in males. Things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms of compulsive gambling may be:
You may be referred to a mental health therapist. The therapist will ask about your:
The goal is to stop gambling. Underlying mental health conditions may also need treatment. Options may be:
There is no known way to prevent compulsive gambling. People with impulse control problems are most at risk. They should avoid gambling.
Mental Health America
National Council on Problem Gambling
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canada Safety Council
Gambling problem signs. Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling website. Available at: https://macgh.org/resources/signs-of-a-gambling-problem/ . Accessed March 9, 2021.
Ioannidis K, Hook R, et al. Impulsivity in gambling disorder and problem gambling: a meta-analysis. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019;44(8):1354-1361.
Overview of cluster B personality disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/overview-of-cluster-b-personality-disorders. Accessed March 9, 2021.
10 questions about gambling behavior. Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado website. Available at:
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Accessed March 9, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 3/9/2021