Using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), mental health professionals have developed criteria for the identification of problematic gambling. The DSM lists gambling disorder alongside other addictive behaviors. To be diagnosed as having gambling disorder, the gambler must have made repeated attempts to control the behavior. However, the criteria do not identify the extent of problem gambling. In some cases, problem gambling is hard to treat and may be a symptom of another mental disorder.
Compulsive gambling is common among both men and women. However, women who gamble tend to do so later in life and become more dependent on the activity. However, over the years, the patterns of gambling behavior in men and women have become very similar. Factors that may increase the risk of compulsive gambling include genetics, family or friend influences, and medications for Parkinson’s disease or restless leg syndrome. Other personality characteristics may also increase the risk.
Besides seeking help from a licensed counselor, a gambling problem can cause significant damage to a person’s financial situation and relationships. Several resources can help people overcome gambling addiction, from support groups to individual psychotherapy. Support groups for problem gamblers also offer peer support. The National Helpline can be contacted at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). In addition to seeking support and assistance from loved ones, seeking help and joining a support group can help a gambler overcome their problem.