Problem gambling is when an individual experiences some adverse consequences as a result of their gambling but does not meet the criteria for a diagnosis gambling disorder.
“Gambling Disorder” is the term used by the American Psychiatric Association in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to describe the most severe form of the disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). According to the DSM-5, gambling disorder is indicated by four (or more) of the following:
- Preoccupied with gambling
- Unable to cut back or control
- Irritable or restless when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
- Risks more money to reach desired level of excitement
- Gambles to escape problems or depressed mood
- “Chases” losses
- Lies to family and others about gambling
- Risks or loses relationships or job because of gambling
- Relies on others for financial needs caused by gambling
Problem and disordered gambling may be hard to recognize because it doesn’t display the same physical signs and symptoms as other addictive disorders. For this reason, gambling disorder is sometimes called the “hidden illness.”
For the Gambler:
- Gambling to escape worry or trouble
- Gambling to get money to solve financial difficulties
- Unable to stop playing regardless of winning or losing
- Gambling until the last dollar is gone
- Gambling to recoup losses from a previous session
- Losing time from work due to gambling
- Borrowing money to pay gambling debts
- Neglecting family/friends because of gambling
- Lying about time and money spent gambling
For the Family:
- Unexplained financial problems
- Reduced involvement in social/group activities outside the home
- Emotional distress, anger, depression
- Lack of communication among family members
- Items of value lost or missing
- Family members working overtime or taking a second job to make ends meet
- One member (gambler) noticeably absent from or disinterested in normal family activities
1-800-Bets Off is a state funded helpline that provides problem gambling information and referral services. Support is also available by texting (855) 895-8398.
Your Life Iowa (https://yourlifeiowa.org/gambling) has a wealth of resources for those seeking assistance with problem gambling. From a three-question “Am I at risk?” quiz to help for family and friends. Support and assistance is offered through live chat.
The National Council on Problem Gambling (https://www.ncpgambling.org/) provides advocacy for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families.
The National Center for Responsible Gaming (https://www.ncrg.org/) is a national organization devoted to funding research that helps increase understanding of gambling disorder and youth gambling.