How problem gambling has been defined has changed over the years. Most recently has been the name change from gambling addiction to gambling disorder. Another shift has been the re-classification of problem gambling from an impulse control disorder, to an addictive disorder. This acknowledges gambling disorder in much the same way as alcohol and drug addictions.
Signs & symptoms
To be diagnosed with a gambling disorder, using the DSM-5 (2013), a person must have engaged in problem gambling behaviour that resulted in significant distress and experience of four or more of the following symptoms in a 12 month period.
- Requiring increasing amounts of money to attain the same level of excitement when gambling
- Attempts to reduce to cease gambling result in the person becoming restless or irritable
- There have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce gambling behaviour
- Frequently distracted with thoughts related to gambling, such as reliving past gains, planning the next gambling activity , thinking of how to get more money to fund gambling
- Tends to gamble when experiencing distressing feelings (guilt, anxious, depressed)
- Tries to make up losses by gambling further (“chasing” the losses)
- Is deceitful in order to hide the degree of gambling behaviour
- Has experienced, or threatened losses around relationships, employment, education or other carrier opportunities due to gambling
- Dependent on others for money to alleviate perilous financial issues caused by gambling
In 2009, 0.7% of Victorians were problem gamblers. With the recent changes to the classification system, it is likely that this figure is actually higher. US data suggests that there are higher prevalence rates for males (around 0.9%), in comparison to females (0.2%).
Psychological treatments are primary approaches used in gambling disorder. In particular forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) looks at challenging the unhelpful behaviours and thoughts, such as rationalisation, belief that losses can be recovered through gambling more, managing urges and managing with feelings of distress in ways other than gambling.
Around about 1.7% of adults and adolescents are diagnosed annually. Females have twice the rate of agoraphobia in comparison to males. Onset occurs most frequently in adolescence and early adulthood.