About Gambling Disorder

The Definition of Gambling Disorder

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.

Anyone involved in gambling activities has the potential to develop an addiction, however some individuals and groups are more at-risk.  Gambling behavior can be classified into four categories:

  • non-problem
  • low-risk
  • moderate-risk
  • problem gamblers

Adolescents, veterans, aging adults, and Latino and Asian communities are just a few of the major groups termed “special populations” and considered at higher risk than the general population for developing a gambling addiction.

The Definition of Gambling Addiction

Over the past few decades, health professionals have discussed and debated the definition of various terms associated with problem gambling. Diagnostic phrases have varied from “pathological gambling” and “compulsive gambling” to “gambling addiction” and the latest diagnosis, “disordered gambling,” and the criteria for being diagnosed as having an addiction or being at-risk have changed along the way, as well.

Gambling Disorder in the DSM-5

The condition previously named pathological gambling was renamed gambling disorder and classified in the category “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders” in the DSM-5.  The criteria for diagnosis is as follows:

Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:

  • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
  • Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
  • Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

NYCPG most often refers to Disordered Gambling by using the more general term “problem gambling.” 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 the 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.

Concerned about problem gambling? Learn more about its warning signs.