(Gambling Addiction; Pathological Gambling)
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.
Impulse control is believed to exist in this part of the brain.
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Compulsive gambling is more common in males. Things that may raise the risk are:
Symptoms of compulsive gambling may be:
- Gambling longer than intended
- Using work or family life to gamble
- Feeling guilty after gambling
- Lying to hide gambling
- Problems sleeping—due to thoughts about gambling
- Having money problems due to gambling
- Trying to quit gambling but not being able to
- Feeling depressed or suicidal due to gambling
You may be referred to a mental health therapist. The therapist will ask about your:
- Health and mental health history
The goal is to stop gambling. Underlying mental health conditions may also need treatment. Options may be:
- Counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Medicines, such as:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Mood stabilizers
- Opioid antagonists
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: http://www.problemgamblingcolorado.org/content/10-questions. Accessed March 9, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 3/9/2021