Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Gambling Addiction


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value — money or goods — in the hope of getting more valuable items in return. While many people gamble for fun or to make money, some people develop a compulsive gambling disorder that leads to serious financial and social problems. It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of gambling addiction so that you or a loved one can get help before it’s too late.

Gambling can be done in a variety of ways, including on television or in casinos, on the Internet, and in private settings. The underlying principles of gambling are the same in all forms: an element of chance, a desire to win, and a commitment to the outcome of a game. People may also use items that have a symbolic value, such as marbles or collectible trading card games (Magic: The Gathering and Pogs).

Compulsive gambling is often a hidden problem. People with the disorder are unable to control their urges and will continue to gamble, even when they’re broke or in debt. In some cases, they will steal or lie to support their habit, jeopardizing their relationships and employment opportunities. Some even resort to drug or alcohol use to soothe their feelings of anxiety and depression.

A number of studies have shown that pathological gambling is associated with depressive mood. Moreover, research has identified high rates of co-occurrence between gambling disorder and other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

The American Psychiatric Association first defined pathological gambling in the 1980s in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). At that time, it was considered a compulsion rather than an addictive behavior. In a move that was widely viewed as a significant step forward in the recognition of pathological gambling, the DSM-5 has moved the disorder from a compulsion to an addictive disorder category.

Until recently, most of the psychological and medical research on gambling was conducted with samples that were derived from a single population. This type of study is useful for establishing prevalence rates but has limitations, especially in identifying specific etiologies and predicting treatment outcomes. For this reason, longitudinal gambling research is becoming increasingly common.

Longitudinal studies are necessary to determine if gambling disorders are related to specific life events and circumstances, such as divorce or unemployment. In addition, these studies will help identify the best methods for screening and diagnosis of gambling disorders, as well as to develop and test new treatments. These studies will also contribute to our understanding of the biological basis of gambling disorders. For example, recent findings suggest that some neurotransmitters are involved in the development of gambling disorders.