"Compulsive" Gambling: Mental Disorder or Irresponsible Choices?
A man leaves his office telling his supervisor he must attend to a family matter. In reality, he spends the afternoon at the race track. This is not the first time. At every opportunity, he plays games of chance -- purchasing lottery tickets, betting on outcomes of sports events, wagering at cards, and indulging in internet gambling schemes. Gradually, gambling becomes a primary focus of his waking hours. Increasingly, he lies regarding his activities and about disappearing sums of money.
His behavior might seem indicative of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that is spiraling out of control with potential to jeopardize his family, his employment and ruin his future.
Whether this behavior truly constitutes a mental illness bears close scrutiny. Many people gamble occasionally as a form of entertainment. It injects a bit of excitement into their lives. They know the odds are against them and are willing to take a small risk. Their gambling goes no further. They have no desire or need to deceive others, and no damage is done. Contrast this with the person who seeks greater and greater excitement, perpetually expecting a large return for very little or no effort.