Pathological Gambling

Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the hope of winning a prize. People often think of slot machines and casinos when they hear the term, but many types of gambling are legal in the US: betting on football games, playing bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, and even placing bets on office pools are all considered to be forms of gambling.

A person with pathological gambling has a serious problem with their behavior that leads to significant problems for themselves and others. Symptoms include an overwhelming urge to gamble, repeated unsuccessful attempts to control or cut back on gambling, and intense thoughts about the next gambling session (also called “retrieving” or “planning”). People with this disorder may also experience periods when their symptoms seem to subside.

Many people enjoy gambling for fun or to socialize with friends, but some gamble for money and find it difficult to stop. This type of gambling can harm a person’s physical and mental health, relationships with family and friends, work or study performance, and financial situation. It can even lead to homelessness and suicide.

Research has shown that people with gambling disorders have similar underlying brain structures and biological pathways to those who have substance addictions. As a result, pathological gambling was moved to the category of behavioral addictions in the DSM-5. It is hoped that this change will increase awareness of the problem and lead to increased support for treatment.