Pathological Gambling

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Pathological Gambling

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Extreme cases of problem gambling may cross over into the realm of mental disorders. Pathological gambling was recognized as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-III, but the criteria were significantly reworked based on large-scale studies and statistical methods for the DSM-IV. As defined by American Psychiatric Association, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that is a chronic and progressive mental illness.

Pathological gambling is now defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior meeting at least five of the following criteria, as long as these behaviors are not better explained by a manic episode:

1. Preoccupation. The subject has frequent thoughts about gambling experiences, whether past, future, or fantasy.
2. Tolerance. As with drug tolerance, the subject requires larger or more frequent wagers to experience the same "rush".
3. Withdrawal. Restlessness or irritability associated with attempts to cease or reduce gambling.
4. Escape. The subject gambles to improve mood or escape problems.
5. Chasing. The subject tries to win back gambling losses with more gambling.
6. Lying. The subject tries to hide the extent of his or her gambling by lying to family, friends, or therapists.
7. Loss of control. The person has unsuccessfully attempted to reduce gambling.
8. Illegal acts. The person has broken the law in order to obtain gambling money or recover gambling losses. This may include acts of theft, embezzlement, fraud, forgery, or bad checks.
9. Risked significant relationship. The person gambles despite risking or losing a relationship, job, or other significant opportunity.
10. Bailout. The person turns to family, friends, or another third party for financial assistance as a result of gambling.
11. Biological Bases. The person has a lack of norepinephrine.

As with many disorders, the DSM-IV definition of pathological gambling is widely accepted and used as a basis for research and clinical practice internationally.

Effects of different types of gambling

Some forms of gambling are allegedly less harmful. According to William R. Eadington, University of Nevada, in an article entitled "What happens to the best laid plans: global lessons on legalization and liberation of gaming laws", ranked from least dangerous to most dangerous are:

1. Lotteries (traditional), bingo - soft gambling
2. Destination resort casinos
3. Urban or suburban casinos
4. Convenient Gambling: gaming devices in bars, slot machines
5. Ultra-Convenient Gambling: interactive television, mobile phone, or internet gambling

Biological bases

According to the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery Recent evidence indicates that pathological gambling is an addiction similar to chemical addiction. It has been seen that some pathological gamblers have lower levels of norepinephrine than normal gamblers.

According to a study conducted by Alec Roy, M.D. formerly at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, norepinephrine is secreted under stress, arousal, or thrill, so pathological gamblers gamble to make up for their underdosage.

Further to this, according to a report from the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions there was an experiment constructed where test subjects were presented with siuations where they could win, lose or break even in a casino-like environment. Subjects' reactions were measured using a fMRI, a neuro-imaging device very similar to a MRI. And according to Hans Breiter, MD, co-director of the motivation and Emotion Neuroscience Centre at the Massachusetts General Hospital, "Monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine." (this quote might be biased, because i suspect that ANY monetary reward would produce brain activities similar to that of infusion of cocaine.)

Deficiencies in serotonin might also contribute to complusive behavior, including a gambling addiction.

Relation to other problems

As debts build up people turn to other sources of money such as theft, or the sale of drugs. A lot of this pressure comes from bookies or loan sharks that people rely on for capital to gamble with. Also, a teenager that does not receive treatment for pathological gambling when in their desperation phase is likely to contemplate suicide. 20% of teenagers that are pathological gamblers do consider suicide. This according to the article High Stakes: Teens Gambling With Their Futures by Laura Paul.

Abuse is also common in homes where pathological gambling is present. Growing up in such a situation leads to improper emotional development and increased risk of falling prey to problem gambling behavior.

Pathological gambling is similar to many other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania. Other mental diseases that also exhibit impulse control disorder include such mental disorders as antisocial personality disorder, or schizophrenia.

Problem Gambling
Gambling is a form of entertainment for many people, but for some it can lead to addiction, and financial and emotional problems. This article looks at the risk factors for problem gambling and what can be done to help.

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