The theory that a pathological gambler in recovery must completely abstain
from all gambling. Abstinence is the goal of Gamblers Anonymous and
most, though not all, treatment professionals.
A category of disorders in which the individual experiences excessive
depression or elation. Examples include depression and bipolar disorder
(manic-depression). Affective disorders are often found among pathological
personality disorder (ASPD):
A disorder characterized by extreme anti-social behavior, usually beginning
in childhood and often accompanied by a lack of remorse and a disregard
of punishment. Also referred to as sociopathic personality and psychopathic
A category of disorders in which the individual experiences extreme
anxiety. Examples include phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):
A disorder of childhood and adolescence characterized by lack of impulse
control, inability to concentrate and hyperactivity. Also called attention
deficit disorder (ADD). The existence of ADHD in adults is a question
still debated in the mental health field.
modification technique that seeks to eliminate a behavior by providing
punishment when that behavior occurs.
A term used by gamblers to describe a run of bad luck.
Money given to a gambler that allows them to pay debts without suffering
A therapeutic method that focuses on modifying or "unlearning"
a maladaptive behavior without consideration of any underlying causes.
The inability or unwillingness to inhibit behavioral impulses.
A family of anti-anxiety drugs. Valium is a prominent example.
An affective disorder in which both manic and depressive episodes occur.
Bipolar disorders are sometimes diagnosed in pathological gamblers.
Symptom Inventory (BSI):
An assessment device sometimes used in gambling treatment. The BSI is
not concerned with gambling per se.
Personality Inventory (CPI):
An assessment device sometimes used in gambling treatment. The CPI is
not directly concerned with gambling.
The attempt by a gambler to make up previous losses through additional
gambling, a common symptom of a pathological gambler. Chasing often
involves making larger bets and/or taking greater risks.
Faulty thinking, as when gamblers "know" their luck is about
The presence of multiple disorders in one individual. Pathological gambling
has high rates of comorbidity with disorders such as alcoholism and
An irresistible urge to do something against one's better judgement.
Compulsive behaviors are often repetitive in nature, and the person
recognizes that the compulsion is irrational. Whether or not problem
gambling is considered a compulsion is a topic of debate within the
mental health profession; the prevailing opinion is that it is not.
The term most commonly used by the public to describe someone with a
gambling disorder, but generally rejected by the therapeutic community
in favor of pathological gambling. The term disordered gambling is also
A theory of treatment for pathological gambling in which the patient
is allowed to gamble on a limited basis. Controlled gambling currently
has few adherents in North America but is somewhat more popular overseas.
Clinical Signs Method (CCSM):
An instrument for the assessment of gambling problems developed by Robert
Cullerton. The CCSM has been used very infrequently for estimating the
extent of problem gambling.
An affective disorder characterized by extreme and intense sadness,
pessimism, sense of inadequacy, etc.
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):
A manual produced by the American Psychiatric Association that catalogs
mental disorders. The fourth edition (DSM-IV), published in 1994, characterizes
pathological gambling as an impulse disorder and lists 10 characteristics
of a pathological gambler. Five of the ten must be present for a diagnosis
of pathological gambling to be made. In addition to its use in clinical
assessments, the DSM-IV criteria have been used in studies to determine
the prevalence of pathological gambling in the general population. The
DSM-IV criteria are generally considered to be more conservative than
those used in the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS).
Literally, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders. However, in the gambling literature, a reference
to the 10 characteristics presented in the manual as indicative of pathological
Interview for Gambling Severity (DIGS):
A structured interview consisting of 20 questions used to determine
if the DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling are met. It was devised
by Dr. Ken Winters, Dr. Sheila Specker, and Dr. Randy Stinchfield in
1997 and to date has been used for clinical evaluation rather than prevalence
A term coined by Howard Shaffer, Matthew Hall, and Joni Vander Bilt
in 1997 to encompass the range of pathological, problem and excessive
gambling. In their lexicon, level 1 of disordered gambling includes
those with no gambling problems, level 2 includes people with gambling
problems who do not meet the criteria for pathological gambling, while
level 3 includes pathological gamblers.
An unpleasant mood characterized by anxiety or discontent, such as the
shame and guilt often experienced by problem and pathological gamblers.
Despondency or depression.
An affective disorder involving a prolonged depressed mood, less severe
Observable behaviors thought to be indicative of underlying emotions.
The study of the occurrence of a disease in a population.
The study of the causes of disease.
Pertaining to the family.
A fellowship for the families of pathological gamblers with chapters
throughout North America.
An international network of groups for people attempting to recover
from pathological gambling. Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step program
modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Local chapters provide fellowship
in which people share their experiences, support, and hopes in order
to stop gambling.
Anonymous 20 Questions (GA-20):
A list of 20 questions devised by Gamblers Anonymous to help individuals
decide if they have a gambling problem. According to GA, most people
with gambling problems will answer "yes" to at least seven
of the 20 questions. The questions have not been scientifically validated.
A mild form of bipolar disorder in which the person displays mildly
yet persistent manic behaviors ‚ talking too much, spending money wildly,
A class of disorders characterized by the inability to resist certain
acts, usually with harmful consequences. Pathological gambling is considered
in the DSM-IV as an impulse control disorder, as are kleptomania, pyromania,
and other "addictive" behaviors.
The rate of new cases of a disorder over a specified period of time.
See also prevalence.
A mood disorder characterized by pathological over-excitement.
An affective disorder characterized by mania, depression, or, in the
case of bipolar disorder, both.
Gambling Screen (MAGS):
An instrument for the assessment of pathological or problem gambling
based on the DSM-IV criteria.
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI):
A widely used instrument for assessing personality, the MMPI is often
used as part of the initial assessment of pathological gamblers.
See affective disorders.
A chemical substance that naturally occurs in the brain and is responsible
for communication among nerve cells.
DSM Screen for Gambling Problems (NODS):
A structured interview used to determine the prevalence of problem gambling
in a population. The NODS consists of 17 questions designed to reflect
the DSM-IV criteria and was devised by the National Opinion Research
Center (NORC) for the 1999 National Survey of Gambling Behavior. The
NODS classifies respondents as non-gamblers, low-risk (gamblers with
no adverse effects), at-risk (gamblers meeting one or two of the DSM
criteria), problem (gamblers meeting three or four criteria), and pathological
(gamblers meeting five or more criteria.)
A neurotransmitter within the central nervous system that is widely
studied in both affective disorders and substance abuse.
A type of anxiety disorder typified by persistent thoughts and ideas
and repetitive behavior. Pathological gambling is not an obsessive-compulsive
disorder though it is often confused with one (hence the professional
dissatisfaction with the term compulsive gambling). "Obsessive-compulsive"
is more properly applied to behaviors such as repetitive handwashing
from which the person gets no pleasure.
A chronic inability to resist the impulse to gamble. The term is usually
limited to cases where the gambling causes serious damage to a person's
social, vocational, or financial life. Often referred to as compulsive
gambling and less frequently as disordered gambling, it is considered
by most to be an impulse control disorder. It is not synonymous with
Generally, any disorder characterized by behavior that causes impaired
social functioning. The term, however, has been used to describe a very
wide range of psychological disorders in both more general and more
specific ways than the definition given above.
The use of drugs to treat a disorder.
The proportion of a population having a condition at a given point in
time or over a fixed period of time. See also incidence.
Gambling activity that causes difficulty for the individual but does
not meet the standards for pathological gambling. Sometimes referred
to as "at-risk," "in-transition" or "potential
pathological" gambling, though it is not known at what rate problem
gamblers become pathological gamblers. Referred to by Shaffer, Hall
and Vander Bilt (1997) as level 2 of disordered gambling.
One who gambles as a way to make part or all of their living. Often
confused with pathological gamblers, professional gambling is characterized
by limited risks, discipline, and restraint, items all lacking in the
pathological gambler. Professional gambliers wager on games with skill
elements rather than games of chance, and wait to bet until the odds
are more in their favor. Professional gamblers can, however, lose control
and exhibit chasing behavior, at which time they become problem or pathological
See social gambling.
Diagnostic Criteria (RDC):
A list of criteria where a certain number must be met for a diagnosis
to be made. For example, the DSM-IV enumerates 10 criteria for pathological
gambling, five of which must be met before a diagnosis can be made.
A general term for a wide range of mental disorders characterized by
a disassociation of sensory input, feelings and emotions on one hand
and thoughts on the other. Symptoms can include hallucinations, hearing
voices, a feeling that one's thoughts or actions are under someone else's
control, and many others. Schizophrenia is found in pathological gamblers,
though not as commonly as depression.
A disorder with symptoms of both schizophrenia and manic-depressive
A neurotransmitter within the central nervous system widely studied
in affective disorders and substance abuse.
Gamblers who exhibit few or none of the difficulties associated with
problem or pathological gambling. Social gamblers will gamble for entertainment,
typically will not risk more than they can afford, often gamble with
friends, chase losses briefly, gamble for limited periods of time, and
are not preoccupied with gambling. Synonymous with recreational gambling.
Level 1 on Shaffer et al's typology of disordered gambling.
Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS):
A series of questions used to determine the presence of a gambling problem.
Developed by Henry Lesieur and Sheila Blume of the South Oaks Psychiatric
Hospital, the instrument consists of 20 items, with a score of five
or higher considered evidence of pathological gambling. The South Oaks
Gambling Screen has been the most widely used instrument in assessing
the prevalence of pathological gambling among the general public, though
it has not been specifically validated for that use.
A modified version of the South Oaks Gambling Screen used in assessing
The lessening or abatement of a disorder (such as pathological gambling)
without assistance from a therapist, counselor, or medical practitioner.
A term used by gamblers to refer to the process of losing control over
A program for treating an addiction, based on the 12 steps first espoused
by Alcoholics Anonymous.
thanks to the North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries
for compiling the above definitions and terms.