Problem Gambling


Gambling involves placing something of value (typically money) at risk on an event that has an element of chance, with the intention of winning a higher amount of value. Unlike casino games where an advantage goes to the house, most forms of gambling involve an uneven distribution of stakes. Some examples include lottery tickets, cards, bingo, dice, video poker, slot machines, instant scratch-offs, races, animal tracks, sporting events and roulett.

While some people find that gambling is fun and entertaining, others develop serious problems with their gambling behaviors. These problems can have a major negative impact on their lives. Approximately two million Americans are estimated to be addicted to gambling. This is a significant increase over the previous estimate of 1.5 million, which was made in 1992. The greater availability and accessibility of gambling has likely played a role in this dramatic increase.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a disorder characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. PG is a psychiatric condition that affects about 0.4%-1.6% of Americans. It is classified in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as an impulse control disorder. Typical symptoms of PG include: (1) a preoccupation with gambling; (2) the feeling that one must increase wagers to sustain excitement levels; (3) the inability to stop gambling; (4) lying to family members, therapists or other gambling addiction treatment professionals to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; (5) the attempt to regain losses by continued betting (“chasing” ones losses); and (6) jeopardizing relationships, jobs or educational opportunities to gamble (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Research has shown a strong link between depression and a lifetime history of problem gambling. In fact, the majority of treated pathological gamblers have a mood disorder such as depression.