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Criteria helps determine pathological gambling

December 12, 2004

"Pathological gambling is often characterized as an addiction-like disorder, with the affected person being addicted to the excitement felt while being 'in action' (gambling)," the American Psychiatric Association says at its Web site.

Someone must meet five of 10 criteria to be diagnosed as pathological:

- Gambled longer than planned

- Gambled until last dollar was gone

- Lost sleep because of thoughts of gambling

- Used income or savings to gamble, leaving bills unpaid

- Made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling

- Broke law or considered breaking law to finance gambling

- Borrowed money to finance gambling

- Felt depressed or suicidal because of gambling losses

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- Been remorseful after gambling

- Gambled to get money to meet financial obligations

Someone who meets one to four items is considered a problem gambler.

People who believe anything on the above list applies to them may call the confidential National Problem Gambling HelpLine Network at 800-522-4700 for help, said Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling in Washington, D.C.

During an interview Friday, Ben Hart, the former executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said nine of the 10 items fit him. Only the "lost sleep" item didn't.

Hart lost his job and went to jail for stealing, a few hundred dollars at a time, more than $15,000 from the bureau to support his gambling habit.

Whyte said gambling addiction escalates like other addictions.

"You have to bet more and more money to achieve the same (excitement) level," he said.

Also, pathological gamblers feel they're "always one bet from winning everything back," he said.

Although gambling addiction is gaining acceptance as a disorder, most private health insurance providers don't cover it and the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically omits it, Whyte said.

- Andrew Schotz

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