What is a gambling addiction?
Gambling addiction is a mental-health problem that is understood to be one of many kinds of impulse-control problems. The types of gambling that people with this disorder might engage in are as variable as the games available. Betting on sports, buying lottery tickets, playing poker, slot machines, or roulette are only a few of the activities in which compulsive gamblers engage. The venue of choice for individuals with gambling addiction varies as well. While many prefer gambling in a casino, the rate of online/Internet gambling addiction continues to increase with increased use of the Internet. Alternatively, some compulsive gamblers may also engage in risky stock market investments. Gambling addiction is also called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling.
Estimates of the number of people who gamble socially and qualify for being diagnosed with a gambling addiction range from 2%-3%, thereby affecting millions of people in the United States alone. Other important statistics on problem gambling include that it tends to affect at least 1% of people internationally. Teens actually tend to suffer from this disorder at a rate that is twice that of adults.
Although more men than women are thought to suffer from pathological gambling, women are developing this disorder at higher rates, now making up as much as 25% of individuals with pathological gambling. Other facts about compulsive gambling are that men tend to develop this disorder during their early teenage years while women tend to develop it later. However, the disorder in women then tends to get worse at a much faster rate than in men. Other apparently gender-based differences in gambling addiction include the tendencies for men to become addicted to more interpersonal forms of gaming, like blackjack, craps, or poker, whereas women tend to engage in less interpersonally based betting, like slot machines or bingo. Men with pathological gambling tend to receive counseling about issues other than gambling less often than their female counterparts.
Problem gambling generally means gambling that involves more than one symptom but fewer than the at least five symptoms required to qualify for the diagnosis of compulsive or pathological gambling. Binge gambling is a subtype of compulsive gambling that involves problem gambling but only during discrete periods of time. That is different from a general gambling addiction, which tends to involve excessive gambling behavior on an ongoing basis and to include persistent thoughts (preoccupation) about gambling even during times when the person is not engaged in gambling.