A gambling problem generally has 2 key features. One is impaired control. This means not being able to stick to limits of the amount of money and/or time that is spent gambling. The second feature is that the gambling causes personal emotional, financial, relationship or legal problems (negative life consequences).
Gambling problems not only impact the person who is gambling but also frequently cause distress for family and friends. Gambling problems can be mild or quite severe and often worsen over time.
Gambling problems were initially recognized as an impulse control disorder but have recently been reclassified by the American Psychiatric Association as an addiction.
While gambling is a form of entertainment for most people, for others it is a devastating medical condition. Most people are unaware of the dangers of problem gambling or that it is a treatable medical condition. Certain things may make people more susceptible such as financial distress, substance abuse, mental health problems, or peer pressure.