Pathological Gambling


Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value (often money) upon an event with an element of chance, and with the hope of gaining something of greater value. It can take many forms, such as lotteries, casinos, games of chance, sports betting and scratchcards. It can be illegal in some areas.

Pathological gambling is a mental health condition that causes a person to engage in harmful behavior related to gambling. The disorder can cause serious personal, social and financial consequences. Symptoms can begin in adolescence or young adulthood and may get worse over time. Those with pathological gambling often have problems with strategic or “face-to-face” gambling such as card games or blackjack, but also may report difficulties with nonstrategic forms of gambling like slot machines and bingo. Men are more likely to develop pathological gambling than women, and tend to start at a younger age.

People with pathological gambling are influenced by a variety of factors including genetic predisposition, family history and coexisting mental illness. They may also be affected by their environment, such as stressful job or relationship issues, and by their personality traits, such as impulsivity, risk taking, and a tendency to downplay or lie about gambling behavior.

In what has been viewed as a major change, the American Psychiatric Association decided in 2008 to move the diagnosis of pathological gambling from the impulse control disorders chapter to the addictions section of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This decision reflects newer understandings of the biological basis of addiction and was prompted by research and clinical experience.