Gambling Addiction (Compulsive or Pathological Gambling)

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

What is the prognosis for gambling addiction?

With treatment, the prognosis of compulsive gambling can be quite encouraging. More than two-thirds of people with this disorder tend to abstain from problem gambling a year after receiving six weeks of treatment. After treatment has ended, less than one-fifth of those who receive follow-up for relapse prevention tend to relapse into gambling addiction behavior after one year compared to half of those who do not receive follow-up.

What are complications and negative effects of gambling addiction?

Although as many as one-third of individuals who suffer from pathological gambling may recover from the disease without receiving any treatment, the potential devastation that compulsive gambling can wreak on the life of the suffer and those around him or her clearly indicate that the potential positive aspects outweigh the possible complications that result from an intervention. As much as $5 billion is spent on gambling in the United States every year, with people who are addicted to gambling accruing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Harmful effects that compulsive gambling can have on the individual include financial problems ranging from high debt, bankruptcy or poverty, to legal problems resulting from theft to prostitution, to wanting, attempting, or completing suicide. Many compulsive gambling sufferers experience stress-associated medical problems like insomnia, stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and muscle aches. Gambling addiction can have a multitude of negative effects on the family. Statistics indicate that families of people with compulsive gambling are more likely to experience domestic violence and child abuse. Children of problem gamblers are at significantly higher risk of suffering from depression, behavior problems, and substance abuse. One of the challenges of treatment of compulsive gambling is that as many as two-thirds of people who begin treatment for this disorder discontinue treatment prematurely, whether treatment involves medication, therapy, or both.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/1/2016

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