Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you have a problem with compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets that lead to losses, hide your behavior, deplete savings, accumulate debt, or even resort to theft or fraud to support your addiction.
In the same way that a majority of people can consume alcohol recreationally and not experience problems, many people also place a wager in the gaming industry now and then without experiencing problems. But conversely, much like alcohol becomes poisonous to the alcoholic who develops a chronic yet treatable illness, gambling may become compulsive and toxic to the problem gambler who develops a pathology that requires similar treatment.
Problem gambling affects approximately 2 million people nationwide, with another 4-6 million at-risk. Uncounted are the millions of family members and friends who are hurt by the consequences of their loved one’s gambling addictions.
Problem gambling can destroy marriages and relationships with family members, colleagues and the court; it can jeopardize a lawyer’s career and it can result in financial devastation. Problem gamblers have higher rates of suicide, divorce and criminal behavior. The ability to gamble in secret and to access cash are extremely dangerous to a gambling addict. Many lawyers can easily do both. An attorney with a gambling disorder could spend a few hours at a casino during a work day under the guise of meeting a client, going to a deposition or appearing in court.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, problem gambling-or gambling addiction-includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits. A problem gambler becomes dominated by an irresistible urge to gamble. Often he appears bent on his own destruction. As he continues to gamble, he loses three basic things: time, money and sense of values. The time and money are lost forever, but he can regain an evaluation of what is really necessary to bring about a good and useful life.
Gamblers Anonymous offers the following questions to anyone who may have a gambling problem. These questions are provided to help the individual decide if he or she is a compulsive gambler and wants to stop gambling.
Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.
Lawyers’ Assistance Programs are seeing more and more attorneys with issues related to problem gambling. If you think you or someone you care about may have a problem with gambling, please contact us. Your call is confidential as a matter of law and you do not have to give your name.
You may also call the Delaware Council on Gambling Problems at 302-655-3261 or the Problem Gambling Helpline at 888-850-8888. A non-profit organization, the Council provides education, information and advocacy services and can refer you to a therapist who is certified to treat gambling addiction and problem gambling.
Other Resources and Links
Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step program for problem gamblers.
Gam-Anon is available for people who are affected by a problem gambler.
 The condition previously named pathological gambling was renamed gambling disorder and classified in the category “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders” in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As it was previously categorized as an impulse control disorder, the re-classification recognizes the disorder among similar addictions such as drug and alcohol abuse.
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