Diagnosis and Treatment of Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction

Since 1980 “pathological gambling“ - or problem gambling - has been recognised as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM III (Koehler & Saß, 1984) and was subsequently included in the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (Dilling et al., 1991). A gambling addiction is when an individual continues, in many cases with increasing frequency, to gamble despite negative personal and social consequences such as debt, problems in the family or in relationships or professional difficulties. 

When Does Gambling Behaviour Require Treatment?

When discussing gambling addiction a distinction is drawn between different patterns of gambling behaviour: Social gambling, problematic gambling and pathological gambling. In the case of the latter, it is advisable to seek treatment.
  • “Social”, unproblematic gambling
    Gambling takes place in a social context and is motivated by a sense of pleasure, excitement and a desire for relaxation. The game involves a low level of risk and financial losses are insignificant.
  • Problem gambling
    Problem gambling behaviour is characterised by the increasing frequency of play and gambling increasing quantities. The gambler takes greater risks and feels the need to recoup lost bets. Thinking becomes increasingly irrational and perception is distorted. At the same time, relationships, recreational activities and occupational activities are neglected.
  • Pathological Gambling
    The term pathological gambling is used to describe a situation when gambling becomes uncontrollable. Gamblers become preoccupied with gambling. The pressure to obtain money for gambling increases as does restlessness and irritability. The player gambles to escape conflicts and often suffers from depression and suicidal thoughts. Indebtedness rises and often leads to illegal acts.
Pathological gamblers are considered to suffer from a gambling addiction and are advised to seek treatment. The Anton Proksch Institute is able to help with a variety of therapeutic approaches.


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