Most people are social gamblers, who gamble for entertainment and typically don’t risk more than they can afford. If they should “chase” their losses to get even, they do so briefly. There is none of the preoccupation, long -term chasing, or progression of the pathological (compulsive) gambler. In referring to gambling, the terms “pathological” and “compulsive” are often used interchangeably. Compulsive is the layman’s term and the one used by Gamblers Anonymous. Pathological is preferred by clinicians and was introduced in 1980 when the American Psychiatric Association first recognized pathological gambling as a bona fide mental disorder and included it in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-lll). Compulsive gambling was thought a misnomer since, in the language of psychiatry, compulsive behavior is involuntary and “ego-dystonic” (external or foreign to the self). Examples of a compulsion would include repetitive hand washing or the irresistible urge to shout an obscenity. Pathological gambling, at least in its early stages, is typically experienced as pleasurable. Pathological gambling has been defined as a progressive disorder characterized by a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble; irrational thinking; and a continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences.

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