Defining Gambling Disorder in the DSM-5 Posted On

What is gambling addiction, and how is it defined?

Over the past few decades, health professionals have discussed and debated the definition of various terms associated with problem gambling. Diagnostic phrases have varied from “pathological gambling” and “compulsive gambling” to “gambling addiction” and the latest diagnosis, “disordered gambling,” and the criteria for being diagnosed as having an addiction or being at-risk have changed along the way, as well.

In 2013, the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was published. Mental health providers look to the DSM for diagnostic criteria they use when working with insurance providers for treatment reimbursement.

Gambling Disorder in the DSM-5

The condition previously named pathological gambling was renamed gambling disorder and classified in the category “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders.” Prior to the publication of the DSM-5, the condition was categorized as an impulse control disorder.

Another significant change to the definition and diagnosis of gambling disorder was the removal of one of the criteria for diagnosing gambling disorder. The criterion, “has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud theft or embezzlement to finance gambling” is no longer one of the criteria used for diagnosing gambling disorder. While it is true some individuals may have done illegal acts to gain access to money, it does little to help diagnose whether or not someone has the disorder.

Finally, the number of symptoms that must be identified to diagnose a gambling disorder has been lowered from five to four. This was done with the intention of decreasing the instances that a problem gambler’s disorder goes undiagnosed and therefore without help.

How The Changes in the DSM Help Problem Gamblers

At KnowTheOdds, we want to make sure people get the help they need. We must be able to properly diagnose individuals and guide them appropriately to opportunities for recovery.

The official definition of gambling disorder allows problem gamblers to understand that their addiction is something that affects millions of people – they are not alone in dealing with its consequences, and it is not their fault. The DSM-5 recognizes gambling disorder as a critical problem similar to drug and alcohol addictions, with the same affects on the individual.

If you or someone you know has a gambling disorder, help is available, and recovery is possible. Read stories of individuals who have recovered in “The Faces of Problem Gambling” and find hope.


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