Problem gambling is an urge to gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling is often defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler’s behaviour. Problem gambling is characterized by many difficulties in controlling money and/or time spent on gambling which leads to adverse consequences for the gambler, their families, and others.

Problems caused by problem gambling are not just financial. Too much time spent on gambling can also lead to relationship and legal problems, difficulties at work, mental health problems including depression and anxiety, or even suicide.

Additional Symptoms and Warning Signs of Problem Gambling may include:

  • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  • Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling
  • Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)
  • Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed)
  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, education or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling

The DSM-5 has re-classified Problem Gambling as an addictive disorder, with those affected exhibiting many similarities to individuals with substance addictions. Further, the DSM-5 diagnosis of “gambling disorder” would be diagnosed for individuals who have experienced four of the symptoms listed above during a one-year period.