Compulsive Gambling Defined

How exactly is compulsive gambling described?

Compulsive gambling has also been described as a progressive disorder characterized as a progressive disorder characterized by a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble; irrational thinking; and a continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences.

This, is essence, is a definition of an addiction.

The APA first recognized compulsive gambling as a mental disorder in 1980 in the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). In the fourth edition of this manual, published in 1994 (DSM-IV), ten criteria are used to define pathological gambling.

According to the APA, a person must exhibit at least five of these criteria to be diagnosed as a compulsive gambler.

Like alcoholics and drug addicts, compulsive gamblers have an intense preoccupation with gambling.

It is the focus of their lives, often to the exclusion of other interests. Compulsive gamblers are unable to control the amount of money they gamble or he amount of time they spend gambling.

Like alcoholics and other drug addicts, compulsive gamblers develop tolerance. As tolerance develops, they increase the amount they wager in order to achieve the desired excitement.

They also escalate from simple to exotic wagers, where the risks and potential winnings are great. Rather than a simple bet on a horse to win a race, they bet the daily double, quinellas, or trifectas.

Rather than a simple 'pass the line' bet, the craps player takes the high risk--- high payoff 'proposition' bets in the center of the craps table layout.

Like chemically dependent people, compulsive gamblers experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to limit or stop their gambling.

When gambling opportunities are not available or when they do not have money with which to gamble, compulsive gamblers get irritable, nervous, and restless.

When they lose, compulsive gamblers 'chase' their losses in an attempt to get even or recoup what they have lost.

This is an extremely important characteristic that distinguishes recreational gamblers from compulsive gamblers.

Most non-addicted gamblers can rationalize their losses without further consequences. They may regard their losses as the cost of their entertainment, or they may say that they chose to gamble rather than spend their money on an evening out--- dinner, the theater, and so on.

Compulsive gamblers cannot do that. They make every effort to return to gambling as soon as they can (as soon as they have obtained more money) to try to win back what they have lost.