Gambling Disorder – Mental Illness Posted On

As march continues, so do does our focus on Problem Gambling Awareness Month. We want to share the importance of learning more about problem gambling as a mental health diagnosable disorder and connecting people in need to care.

Importance of Raising Awareness

Even with all the hard work of the many professionals and agencies across New York State, the US and around the world, many people are still not aware that problem gambling can lead to a diagnosable, treatable mental health disorder called gambling disorder.  That was a mouthful! Let’s break that down.

As of 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) included gambling disorder as a diagnosable disorder. This means that there is enough supporting evidence through research and studies, that gambling disorder is not a lack of willpower. Instead, gambling disorder is a mental health condition that can be helped with professional treatment.

Why is this important?

As a mental health disorder, we now know that people who struggle with gambling problems are not weak. They struggle with their gambling just as a person can struggle with drinking.  Both the person struggling with gambling disorder and the person struggling with alcoholism are struggling with addiction.  Addictions are brain diseases that can be identified and treated by trained professionals.

The fact that gambling disorder can be diagnosed and treated means that we should be connecting those people who are struggling to the help they need.  Especially since options for help are becoming more available throughout New York State.

Gambling Disorder is a Mental Illness

Two-thirds of gamblers surveyed reported that their mental health suffered as a result of their gambling. (Nash et al, 2018).  In fact, the majority of those experiencing disordered gambling have a lifetime history of a psychiatric disorder.  In addition to struggling with gambling: 

  • Over 60% also have a personality disorder,
  • Over 49% also have a mood disorder,
  • Over 41% also have an anxiety disorder(Petry et al, 2005), and 
  • Nearly 37% of those experiencing a gambling problem and 50% of those with disordered gambling have had suicidal thoughts. Over 17% of these individuals have attempted suicide (Moghaddam et al, 2015).

Problem gambling does not just affect the individual who is gambling, but also his or her loved ones. 

Supporting Those in Need

Every person struggling with gambling problems affects at least 10 people closest to them. In one study over 90% of those affected by someone else’s gambling behavior reported emotional distress (Nash et al, 2018).  So, it only makes sense to offer support to anyone affected by problems that are rooted in gambling.  Therefore, there is support available for people struggling with problem gambling, as well as loved ones who are adversely affected by someone else’s gambling.

People who struggle with problem gambling can reach out to their local Problem Gambling Resource Center by visiting  People who call are greeted by a resource professional.  This professional can assist the caller with understanding the available local resources and services. The services could include an inpatient care center, a one on one clinician, self-help groups, etc.  They also offer informational resources for callers to learn more.

Information and Resources

Additional to reaching out to your local Problem Gambling Resource Center, the New York Council and Problem Gambling (NYCPG) has created a Family Toolkit. This toolkit offers resources and information to learn more about problem gambling. It also covers ways to take care of yourself, and resources to discuss the effects of problem gambling.

As Problem Gambling Awareness Month continues, please feel free to look through the Know The Odds website for information and resources.  You can also follow the NYCPG on Facebook and Twitter to be connected with additional statistics and resources as we continue to help people negatively affected by gambling problems.


Additional 2020 PGAM Articles: