It is estimated that around two million people in the U.S. are problem gamblers, and that for as many as 20 million the habit seriously interferes with work and social life.

Problem gambling is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling is often defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behavior. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria. Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs.

For a diagnosis of gambling addiction, The DSM-5 states that a person must show or experience at least four of the following during the past 12 months:

  • Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel excitement
  • Restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop, control, or reduce gambling
  • Thinking often about gambling and making plans to gamble
  • Gambling when feeling distressed
  • Returning to gamble again after losing money
  • Lying to conceal gambling activities
  • Experiencing relationship or work problems due to gambling
  • Depending on others for money to spend on gambling

A problem gambling is a progressive addiction that can have many negative psychological, physical, and social repercussions. It is classed as an impulse-control disorder. Similar to addictive substances like meth and cocaine, gambling addiction is associated with release of dopamine within the brain.