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Definition of Gambling Addiction

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Most people at one point or another have gambled at least once or a few times in their lives without any significant problems or issues. In fact, about 85 percent of American adults have gambled at least once in their lifetime, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Of this number, 60 percent have gambled within the past year. However, there are approximately two million adults in the United States that are considered to be pathological gamblers, or have a gambling addiction, and should seek treatment for this damaging addiction.

What is Gambling Addiction?

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, the definition of a gambling addiction, or program gambling, includes:

“All gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. The essential features are increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, "chasing" losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences. In extreme cases, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of career and family, or even suicide.”

How Many People Suffer from Gambling Addiction?

As mentioned above, about two million American adults meet the criteria for pathological gambling. Another four to six million also are considered problem gamblers. While these four to six million do not meet all the full diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, they do meet one or more of the criteria, and may be experiencing some problems associated with their gambling behavior.

What is the Pathological Gambling Criteria?

Following are the 10 criteria for pathological gambling, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling:

1. Have often gambled longer than planned
2. Have gambled until your last dollar was spent
3. Thoughts of gambling cause lost sleep
4. Have used income or savings to gamble while bills have gone unpaid
5. Have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling
6. Have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance gambling
7. Have borrowed money to finance gambling
8. Have felt depressed or suicidal due to gambling losses
9. Have been remorseful after gambling
10. Have gambles to meet your financial obligations

Source: National Council on Problem Gambling