Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, and problem gambling, is a chronic disorder which can be characterized by impairment in behavioral control and the inability to regularly abstain from gambling. Individuals with a gambling addiction often cannot recognize the severity of the problems caused by their own behavior, the problems and strains placed on interpersonal relationships, and the many dysfunctional emotional responses that may come as a result of their addiction.
Like other chronic diseases, gambling addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. And like all addictions, without treatment or participation in specific recovery activities, it is a progressive disease. In the most severe cases, where gambling has been ongoing for years, problem gambling can result in financial ruin, legal problems, loss of family, career, incarceration, and even suicide.
Participating in a treatment program that includes therapy, regular peer group attendance, and sometimes medication can be successful, but it is very difficult to overcome a gambling addiction. Relapse rates for problem gamblers in recovery are among the highest for any type of addiction.
Despite the severity and impact of gambling addiction, it is also one of the most unrecognized, underserved and least treated. Only 8% of individuals diagnosed with a gambling addiction seek treatment for it, compared with about 50% of substance abusers.