Gambling Disorders



Gambling is an activity that involves betting something of value (such as money or goods) on a random event, where the outcome is determined at least in part by chance. Many governments outlaw gambling or heavily regulate it. People can gamble with either real or virtual money, although the most popular form of gambling is a lottery or a game of chance such as blackjack or roulette. People may also gamble with objects that have a perceived value, such as marbles or collectible cards (e.g., Pogs or Magic: The Gathering), and they can place bets against their own team in sports betting.

Problem gambling occurs when gambling affects a person’s physical or mental health, school or work performance, finances, or relationships with others. It is often associated with other addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Pathological gambling was once classified as an impulse control disorder, but the DSM-5 removed this classification in favor of a new one—Gambling Disorder.

As legal access to gambling has increased, psychologists have become concerned that more people will develop problems. Vulnerability is especially high among young people, particularly boys and men. Up to 5% of adolescents and young adults who gamble develop a gambling disorder. In addition, they are most likely to engage in the newest forms of gambling—sports betting and video game-based gambling.

Some factors that contribute to the onset and maintenance of gambling disorders include psychological, biological, and environmental influences. For example, researchers are exploring the role of genes that influence reward systems, as well as brain regions involved in decision-making and impulsivity. Studies that follow individuals over time are known as longitudinal designs, which can help to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling behavior.