Gambling Addiction


Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is determined, at least in part, by chance and hoping to gain something of value. It can include activities such as betting on a football match, purchasing a scratchcard, or playing bingo. However, it does not include business transactions based on law or contract such as purchasing stocks and securities, or insurance.

The psychiatric community previously categorized pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder, which was a fuzzy label that also included other disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania. But in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling into the addictions chapter.

Several factors influence whether someone becomes addicted to gambling. People with underlying mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse are more likely to develop a problem. They also may start gambling at a younger age and have higher stakes in their bets.

Other risk factors include financial instability, poor impulse control, and family problems. Those who are already predisposed to addictive behavior may be influenced by genetics and environmental factors such as childhood trauma or traumatic events, and their family members may be prone to similar behaviors. People who gamble can develop a gambling disorder at any age, but it usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, but psychotherapy (or talk therapy) is available.