Problem Gambling Defined

Gambling can be defined as any activity (e.g. a game of chance or skill) where an item of value is placed at risk in an attempt to gain something of greater value.

The term problem gambling has been used in different ways by the research community, ranging from individuals who fall short of the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling to persons whose gambling behavior compromises, disrupts, or damages personal, family or vocational pursuits. According to National Council on Problem Gambling, this term is also used as a more inclusive category that encompasses a continuum of gambling difficulties, with pathological gambling at one end of the spectrum. A problem gambler dedicates more time, thought and money towards gambling.

The DSM-V renames pathological gambling “disordered gambling” and moves it under a new classification titled “Addiction and Related Disorders” (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). This category replaces the Substance-Related Disorders classification and includes disorders related to alcohol and substance abuse. Disordered gambling is the sole “behavioral addiction” in this group.

To be diagnosed as a disordered gambler, an individual must meet at least four out of nine diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • thinks constantly about gambling
  • increases bets to sustain thrill
  • exhibits agitation when cutting back
  • gambles as an escape
  • chases losses
  • lies to conceal activity
  • jeopardizes significant relationships
  • relies on financial bailout
  • fails in effort to control or stop