SymptomsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Signs and symptoms of compulsive (pathologic) gambling include:
- Gaining a thrill from taking big gambling risks
- Taking increasingly bigger gambling risks
- A preoccupation with gambling
- Reliving past gambling experiences
- Gambling as a way to escape problems or feelings of helplessness, guilt or depression
- Taking time from work or family life to gamble
- Concealing gambling
- Feeling guilt or remorse after gambling
- Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
- Failed efforts to cut back on gambling
- Lying to hide gambling
Compulsive gambling typically begins in the late teen years. On rare occasions, gambling becomes a problem with the very first wager. But more often, a gambling problem progresses over time. In fact, many people spend years enjoying social gambling without any problems. But more frequent gambling or life stresses can turn casual gambling into something much more serious. During periods of stress or depression, the urge to gamble may be especially overpowering. Eventually, a person with a gambling problem becomes almost completely preoccupied with gambling and getting money to gamble.
For most compulsive gamblers, betting isn't as much about money as it is about the excitement. Sustaining the thrill gambling provides usually involves taking increasingly bigger risks and placing larger bets. Those bets may involve sums you can't afford to lose. Unlike most casual gamblers, compulsive gamblers are compelled to keep playing to recoup their money — a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time.
When to see a doctor or mental health provider
Have family members, friends or co-workers expressed concern about your gambling? If so, listen to their worries. Because denial is almost always a characteristic of compulsive or addictive behavior, it may be difficult for you to recognize that you have a problem and seek treatment.
Gambling is out of control if:
- It's affecting your relationships, your finances or your work life
- You're devoting more and more time and energy to gambling pursuits
- You've unsuccessfully tried to stop or cut back on your gambling
- You try to conceal your gambling from family or health professionals
- You resort to theft or fraud to get gambling money
- You ask others to bail you out of financial woes because you've gambled money away
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