Gambling disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent gambling behavior over time that is difficult to stop or reduce despite the experience of significant harms or disruptions of interpersonal, intrapersonal, or vocational functioning. Conflict in important relationships in a person’s life related to gambling (e.g., lying about gambling, borrowing money from others, accruing financial debt) or experiencing gambling-related psychological distress (e.g., irritability when cutting back, experiencing distress when attempting to reduce gambling) are common experiences of those with a gambling disorder diagnosis. The classification of gambling disorder is present both within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11).
Gambling disorder is found within the ‘Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders’ section of the DSM-5. Although gambling disorder does not involve the consumption of an exogenous substance, as is the case in substance use disorders, the neurobiological activity associated with gambling disorder mirrors that of substance abuse. The release of the neurotransmitter dopamine within the mesolimbic tract has been associated with motivational processes and experiences of craving or wanting seen in addictive behavior.