Tipsheet: Pathological Gambling


Pathological gambling is a common psychiatric condition that can present with a variety of symptoms. Treatment recommendations available for pathological gamblers, as well as resources for patients and their families in this Tipsheet.

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 contentPsychiatric Comorbidity Associated With Pathological GamblingPathological Gambling: A Behavioral Addiction (Video)
Clinical Assessment and Management of Pathological Gambling


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