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Overview of gambling disorder

Frank J Domino, MD
Section Editor
Susan McElroy, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Gambling disorder (pathologic gambling) and problem gambling affects up to 15 million Americans and are common in young people. The number of people with gambling problems is increasing. The societal impact of pathological gambling and problem gambling is therefore also increasing, with related issues involving employment, personal relationships, financial solvency, and criminal pursuits.

No systematic process of educating, screening, and treating pathologic gamblers is currently in place. Provider and community education about the depth of this problem is crucial in identifying patients who are problem or pathologic gamblers and in helping treatment programs work. Primary prevention of this condition using educational programs that target at-risk youth and adults might help establish a decrease in problem gambling and a culture of controlled, responsible gambling behaviors among adults and their children.

This topic discusses the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of gambling disorder.


Gambling — Gambling is defined as placing something of value at risk with the hope of gaining something of greater value. Less than 10 percent of adult gamblers develop a gambling problem [1,2].

Gambling disorder — According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), gambling disorder is defined as persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior, as indicated by four or more of the following criteria [3]:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 14, 2017.
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