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Tipsheet: Pathological Gambling

Tipsheet: Pathological Gambling

Pathological gambling is a common psychiatric condition that can present with a variety of symptoms. Here, practical treatment recommendations for pathological gamblers and their families.


Biological/physical approaches

Use medications to address co-occurring psychiatric or substance-related disorders

Employ random urine drug screens to rule out substance abuse

Screen for medically related conditions that can complicate pathological gambling: Dementia, Parkinson disease, malignancies, prescription drug abuse

Consider medications to target preoccupation and gambling urges and to reduce the reinforcement from gambling

Exercise regularly

Practice good sleep hygiene, with a target of 7 hours of sleep per night in recovery

Psychological approaches

Encourage patients to sign up for self-exclusion programs from casinos and to be removed from casino marketing lists

Reduce stigma and shame by educating that pathological gambling is a brain disease, much like depression and addictions

Use Web sites or advocacy groups for support (see Resources, below)

Seek out supervision or support from gambling treatment specialists

Social approaches

Encourage active participation in Gamblers Anonymous, including getting a sponsor and making a commitment to meetings

Involve family and friends to monitor overall behaviors and functioning

Encourage patients to engage in recovery process by increasing structured activities to replace time spent gambling


National Council on Problem Gambling

UCLA Gambling Studies Program

Gamblers Anonymous

National Center for Responsible Gaming


For details, please see "Pathological Gambling: Update on Assessment and Treatment," by Timothy W. Fong, MD, from which this Tipsheet was adapted.

Related content
Psychiatric Comorbidity Associated With Pathological Gambling
Pathological Gambling: A Behavioral Addiction (Video)
Clinical Assessment and Management of Pathological Gambling


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