When talking about addiction, most people think of substance abuse, like drinking too much, using illicit drugs, or misusing prescription medication. However, problem gambling is another serious disorder that can cause huge problems for individuals, families, and communities.
Gambling problems don’t just create financial difficulties and strain relationships. They can also come with serious mental-health symptoms. Research has found that individuals who struggle with a gambling addiction are at a higher risk of suicide.
What is a gambling disorder?
Many people engage in gambling without negative long-term effects. Spending a few dollars on lottery tickets, a slot machine, or a friendly game of poker may not have a significant impact on their lives.
Problem gambling (also known as excessive gambling, gambling addiction, compulsive gambling, or a gambling disorder) occurs when a person feels compelled to continue gambling, even with negative consequences. Individuals who engage in problem gambling may want to stop, but feel they are unable to.
Excessive gambling has been classed as an impulse-control disorder. The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) specifically lists it. Rather than just a financial problem, experts consider excessive gambling an emotional problem with financial effects.
To be diagnosed with a gambling addiction, the DSM-5 says a person must experience at least four of these criteria over the last 12 months:
A need to gamble increasing amounts of money
Feeling restless or irritable when trying to stop gambling
Repeatedly trying to stop, control, or reduce gambling, without success
Frequently thinking about gambling and planning to gamble
Gambling to relieve stress
Continuing to gamble even after losing money
Hiding gambling activities
Developing relationship or work problems because of gambling
Relying on others to provide money for gambling
Are there risk factors for gambling addiction?
Anyone who gambles is at risk of developing an addiction. However, there are some factors that could put a person at higher risk:
Use of certain medications, including antipsychotics or dopamine agonists
Presence of other addictions
Emotional struggles, such as loneliness, depression, or anxiety
Significant life changes, such as retirement or trauma
More opportunities to gamble, such as living near a casino
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, even people who have been seen as responsible and strong-willed have developed gambling problems. Other factors, such as those listed above, often lead to behavioral changes that cause a gambling disorder.
Here at the BestNotes blog, we’ll be continuing this discussion in future posts. Check back soon for more details on the topic of problem gambling, including specific types of gambling, and treatment methods.
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