Gambling and Pathological Gambling


A person gambles when they stake something of value on an event or activity that is a mixture of skill and chance with the intent to win a prize. This includes betting on a game of cards, slots, instant scratch tickets, horse races, dog or animal tracks, dice, or even sporting events. It does not include bona fide business transactions that are valid under the law, such as purchasing goods or services at a future date, or contracts of indemnity or guaranty or life, health, and accident insurance.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious problem that affects about 0.1%- 1.6% of Americans. PG typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood and develops over several years into a chronic pattern of unhealthy gambling behavior. Males tend to have more PG problems than females and are more likely to develop the disorder in strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, than nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

In the past, psychiatric researchers viewed pathological gambling as a form of impulse control disorder, a category that also includes kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in a move that has been hailed by experts, the American Psychiatric Association decided to change the way it classifies this condition by moving PG into the addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Getting help for a gambling problem takes strength and courage, especially if you have strained or lost relationships due to your addiction. But recovery is possible with a variety of treatment options.