What is Compulsive Gambling?

Compulsive gambling is a progressive disease, much like an addiction to alcohol or drugs. In many cases, the gambling addiction is hidden until the gambler becomes unable to function without gambling, and he or she begins to exclude all other activities from their lives.

Gambling for most people is a recreational activity. However, for an estimated 3% to 5% of the general population, gambling results in an addiction. Estimates as high as 25% to 30% of alcoholics and drug addicts are also addicted to gambling.

Inability to stop gambling often results in financial devastation, broken homes, employment problems, criminal acts and suicide attempts.

Since 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -- DSM-IV), has listed "Pathological (Compulsive) Gambling" as a diagnosable and treatable illness. The criteria for diagnosing the disease are listed here.

Compulsive gambling also affects the family of the gambler. The Chart of the Effects of Compulsive Gambling on the Spouse outlines some of the traits associated with a typical relationship affected by this devastating disease.

If you or someone you know or love has a gambling problem, please seek help. An excellent source for help is Gamblers Anonymous for the gambler, or Gam-Anon for the family and friends.

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