Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you're willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value.
Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you have a problem with compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets that lead to losses, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.
Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many people who struggle with compulsive gambling have found help through professional treatment.
Signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling (gambling disorder) include:
Unlike most casual gamblers who stop when losing or set a loss limit, people with a compulsive gambling problem are compelled to keep playing to recover their money â a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time.
Some people with a compulsive gambling problem may have remission where they gamble less or not at all for a period of time. However, without treatment, the remission usually isn't permanent.
Have family members, friends or co-workers expressed concern about your gambling? If so, listen to their worries. Because denial is almost always a feature of compulsive or addictive behavior, it may be difficult for you to realize that you have a problem.
If you recognize your own behavior from the list of signs and symptoms for compulsive gambling, seek professional help.
Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn't well-understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.
If you recognize that you may have a problem with your gambling, talk with your primary care doctor about an evaluation or seek help from a mental health professional.
To evaluate your problem with gambling, your doctor or mental health professional will likely:
Compulsive gambling can have profound and long-lasting consequences for your life, such as:
Although there's no proven way to prevent a gambling problem, educational programs that target individuals and groups at increased risk may be helpful.
If you have risk factors for compulsive gambling, consider avoiding gambling in any form, people who gamble and places where gambling occurs. Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent gambling from becoming worse.
These recovery skills may help you concentrate on resisting the urges of compulsive gambling:
Family members of people with a compulsive gambling problem may benefit from counseling, even if the gambler is unwilling to participate in therapy.
Although most people who play cards or wager never develop a gambling problem, certain factors are more often associated with compulsive gambling: