Gambling As an Addiction


Whether you place a bet on a football match or buy a lottery ticket, gambling is an activity that involves risking money with the hope of winning more. It’s a common pastime that can give you a rush of excitement when you win. But for many people, it becomes a destructive habit that interferes with their work and personal life. Fortunately, there are ways to break the cycle and overcome the urge to gamble.

Traditionally, the psychiatric community has classified pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder—a fuzzy label that also includes disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania (hair-pulling). But in May, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced that it will move the disorder to the chapter on addictions in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The decision reflects a growing understanding of the biology of addiction. The past two decades have given neuroscience a dramatic boost, allowing researchers to better understand how the brain changes as someone develops an addiction.

The APA’s decision to classify gambling as an addiction is one of the most significant developments in the field of addiction since it first developed a formal diagnosis in the 1970s. It will allow therapists to more accurately identify and treat problem gamblers. It’s also a sign that psychiatry is coming to realize that compulsive gambling is similar to other forms of addiction, such as drug addiction.

In addition to a loss of control over gambling, problem gamblers often have other mood disorders that can trigger or make the problem worse. Depression, stress and substance abuse are all known to contribute to gambling problems, as well as be exacerbated by them. It is crucial to seek treatment for these disorders, even after a person has regained control over their gambling.

The easiest way to know if you have a gambling problem is to assess your current finances and personal relationships. Ask yourself how much time and money you’re spending on gambling, and if it’s negatively impacting your family or employment. You can also set a budget for yourself, and only gamble with money you’re prepared to lose. If you’re unsure about how to do this, try using our free and confidential therapist matching service to find a qualified therapist in your area.

The biggest step toward recovery from a gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. It takes courage to acknowledge that you need help, especially if your gambling has caused financial hardship or strained your relationship with your loved ones. Don’t go it alone—there are plenty of other people who have successfully broke the gambling habit and rebuilt their lives. For more tips on how to recognize and manage a gambling addiction, read this article by the renowned expert Dr. David Jensen.