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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

That Other Addiction, Gambling

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 15th 2007

Did you ever know someone who felt secure in the belief that both their marriage and financial status were healthy only to suddenly discover that neither is true? It is extremely traumatizing for a man or woman to wake up one day and discover that all the assumptions they made about their spouse, home, children and financial security were completely unfounded. For this individual it comes as a complete shock that the children’s' college fund is gone, the mortgage is unpaid and the house on the verge of default, the bills are unpaid and all the dun notices are held at the post office in an attempt to hide the extent of the disaster. This is the fate of those who learn too late that their spouse has a mental disorder known in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV of the American Psychiatric Association as Pathological Gambling or Gambling Addiction.

Several Criteria for Pathological Gambling:

A few of the criteria for the diagnosis of Pathological Gambling are:

1. Constantly thinking about gambling, reliving gambling experiences and planning future gambling episodes.

2. Gambling with increasing amounts of money to increase the excitement.

3. Being irritable and restless when trying to stop gambling.

4. Telling lies to family members and others to hide the extent of the gambling problem.

5. Borrowing money from other people to relieve desperate financial situations created by gambling.

The DSM IV reports that one to two percent of the adult population suffers from pathological gambling. This percentage is even larger when those who have a serious gambling problem but do not fit the criteria above are included in the statistics. Also, it is suspected that many more women are either problems gamblers or are addicted to gambling than are actually reported.

People diagnosed with Gambling Addiction often suffer from other types of addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, narcissistic or anti social personality disorder. There is often a family history of gambling as well as of compulsive disorders. Pathological Gambling is also considered to be an Impulse Control Disorder.

Gambling addiction or problem gambling wrecks marriages and harms families by destroying the financial basis and futures of all family members.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction:

1. Financial problems

2. Relationship problems

3. Increased levels of betting

4. Alcohol or drug abuse

5. Telling lies

6. Stealing money

7. Job loss

8. Arrest for criminal behavior

9. Depression with suicidal thoughts

These are just a few of the symptoms and signs of gambling and they are difficult to put together into a clear picture that looks like gambling because the gambler works hard to hide their behavior.

Available Help:

  • As with other addictions there is the self help group know as GA or Gamblers Anonymous.
  • Psychiatric help is necessary with the application of anti depressants that can relieve the compulsion to gamble.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy to learn about the cues that set off the impulse to gamble so that these cues can be avoided.

One of the great and complicated factors for all problem gamblers is the easy availability of gambling today. These include: Internet gambling, State Lotteries, and Off Track Betting.

Your comment are appreciated and encouraged.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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