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Gambling Addiction disorder is divided into two sub-categories. Problem Gambling, and the most severe form of addiction, Pathological Gambling. Problem Gambling may be an earlier stage of Pathological Gambling (otherwise called Compulsive Gambling), though problem gamblers may never develop into pathological gamblers. More research is still required in this area. Gambling Addiction behaviors damage the patient’s personal life, their family, their finances and their career. Because the disorder has significant financial consequence to the patient and family, it can devastate the family if left untreated. Patients with gambling addictions are often strong, responsible, intelligent people. Life changing stress, or events like retirement or being fired, can prompt this disorder in people whose personality, heredity, or other predispositions toward addiction.
Under the right conditions, anyone that gambles can develop a problem if they do not understand the risks. Gambling frequency does not define a gambling problem. The patient may go on gambling binges periodically, rather than exhibiting a persistent daily or weekly pattern. Winning or losing a lot of money does not necessarily create a gambling problem. Some studies indicate that games with a faster ‘wager to response time’ may create more gambling problems, but there is still much research to be done on this subject.
The gambler does not ingest any substance, but he gets the ‘high’ just as someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Gambling alters mood and the gambler repeats the behavior to repeatedly achieve this effect. But just as a tolerance to drugs and alcohol prompts the addict to increase the amount of intake, the gambler has to increase activity to achieve the same impact over time.
Some problem gamblers never have problems with any other kind of addiction, though there are some who are also addicted to alcohol or other substance or activity. There is some research to support the idea that family history of dependency disorders may predispose a patient to Gambling Addiction to Alcohol Addiction.
What are the symptoms?
The Robert L. Custer Three Phase Model of gambling addiction progression defines the symptoms in each phase as follows:
The Winning Phase: Big win or series of wins, unreasonable optimism that winning will continue, great excitement during gambling, increased amount of bets
How is it diagnosed and treated?
To be diagnosed as a Pathological Gambler, having a Gambling Addiction, a patient must meet at least five of ten criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994:
Most patients enter treatment only with pressure from family, employers or friends. They do not believe they have a problem.
Treatment(s) can include:
Family plays an important role in rehabilitation. Their presence and involvement in therapy greatly improves the patient’s response to treatment.
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