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Casual, Social and Pathological Gambling


What is the difference between casual, social and pathological gambling?

Gambling can be defined as playing a game of chance for stakes. Gambling occurs in many forms, most commonly pari–mutuels (horse and dog tracks, off–track–betting parlors, Jai Alai), lotteries, casinos (slot machines, table games), bookmaking (sports books and horse books), card rooms, bingo and the stock market.

Pathological gambling is a progressive disease that devastates not only the gambler but everyone with whom he or she has a significant relationship. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association accepted pathological gambling as a ”disorder of impulse control.” It is an illness that is chronic and progressive, but it can be diagnosed and treated.

People who are pathologic gamblers can't control their impulses to gamble. They end up losing a lot of money and get into financial trouble. Gambling usually causes problems with their work, school or relationships. However, in spite of these problems, a pathologic gambler will continue to gamble.

Men or women of any age can be pathologic gamblers. Depression, drinking and taking drugs often go along with pathologic gambling. Pathologic gamblers may also think about committing suicide.

What causes pathologic gambling?

Many experts think that pathologic gambling is an addiction because of the ”rush” you feel when you win and lose money. A person's experiences and personality type also play a large part.

Can pathologic gambling be treated?

Yes. However, pathologic gambling can be hard to treat because you may not want to tell others about your problem. First, you have to admit you have a gambling problem by telling your family and friends. Second, you can join Gamblers Anonymous, a self–help group for problem gamblers. Your family and friends can join Gam–Anon. This is a group that helps family members and friends deal with a loved one who is a pathologic gambler. Help may involve talking about your gambling problem. It may also include advice about how to understand your gambling urges and how to handle them. Treatment for pathologic gambling may also include treatment for depression or substance abuse, if needed.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, the Employee Assistance Program can help. The EAP can provide face–to–face problem–solving sessions and can help you access local community resources, including support groups and treatment programs. Call 1–800–433–2320 today.