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Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Feb;163(2):297-302.

Natural recovery and treatment-seeking in pathological gambling: results of two U.S. national surveys.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, 210 McAlester Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. slutskew@missouri.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Pathological gambling is described in DSM-IV as a chronic and persisting disorder, but recent community-based longitudinal studies that have highlighted the transitory nature of gambling-related problems have called into question whether this is an accurate characterization. This emerging evidence of high rates of recovery coupled with low rates of treatment-seeking for pathological gambling suggests that natural recovery might be common. The purpose of the present study was to document the rates of recovery, treatment-seeking, and natural recovery among individuals with DSM-IV pathological gambling disorder in two large and representative U.S. national surveys.

METHOD:

Prevalences of recovery, treatment-seeking, and natural recovery were estimated among individuals from the Gambling Impact and Behavior Study (N=2,417) and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (N=43,093) who reported a lifetime history of DSM-IV pathological gambling disorder (N=21 and N=185, respectively).

RESULTS:

Among individuals with a lifetime history of DSM-IV pathological gambling, 36%-39% did not experience any gambling-related problems in the past year, even though only 7%-12% had ever sought either formal treatment or attended meetings of Gamblers Anonymous. About one-third of the individuals with pathological gambling disorder in these two nationally representative U.S. samples were characterized by natural recovery.

CONCLUSIONS:

Pathological gambling may not always follow a chronic and persisting course. A substantial portion of individuals with a history of pathological gambling eventually recover, most without formal treatment. The results of large epidemiological surveys of pathological gambling may eventually overturn the established wisdom about pathological gambling disorder.

PMID:
16449485
DOI:
10.1176/appi.ajp.163.2.297
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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