Identifying a gambling disorder

Treatment for a gambling disorder begins at first contact with a clinician.

Table of Contents

Brief screening

One of the earliest and best known brief screens for gambling-related problems is the Lie/Bet Scale. This is a two-item screen that asks people to answer (1) Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled? and (2) Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money? The Lie/Bet Scale has been the subject of a number of psychometric evaluations. Recently, researchers have developed a number of brief screens (i.e., those about 5 items or fewer). You can read summaries about some of these screens on The BASIS.

Learn More from The BASIS:

Additional Resources

Assessment

The gambling field is awash with assessment tools. Different assessment tools target different aspects of gambling-related problems. The available assessments have been the subject of a number of psychometric evaluations. Depending upon an individual’s clinical needs and a clinician’s need for specific information, different assessment tools are appropriate.

Some popular assessment tools include:

Diagnosis

DSM 5 Gambling Disorder: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders provides a series of symptoms commonly found among people with gambling disorders. These symptoms include:

  1. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:
    1. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
    2. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
    3. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
    4. 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).
    5. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
    6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
    7. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
    8. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
    9. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.
  2. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.

People meet the DSM standard for Gambling Disorder when they satisfy 4 of these criteria.

Of Note: The American Psychiatric Association recently made a major change to its treatment of gambling-related problems within its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In prior editions, gambling-related problems were included in the manual’s Impulse Control Disorders section under the diagnosis, Pathological Gambling. Today, gambling-related problems are located with other addictive behavior, like Substance Use Disorders, and use the diagnosis, Gambling Disorder. The co-location of gambling with other addictive behavior reflects the shared preceding conditions, developmental processes, and consequences of these problems. Notably, many of the Evidence-based Practices for Treating Gambling Disorder also are evidence-based practices for other expressions of addiction

Contact

Phone

Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline (800) 327-5050

OPGS provides a range of programs and services across the continuum of care. If you or a loved one need immediate assistance regarding problem gambling, please call the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline or visit https://gamblinghelplinema.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Alcohol and Drug Hotline (800) 327-5050

24./7. Info & referral for substance abuse services including crisis intervention and referrals for inpatient/outpatient treatment and where to go if uninsured.

National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233

Trained advocates are available to take your calls through our toll free, 24/7 hotline.

Parental Stress Hotline (800) 632-8188

24/7. Support and referrals for parents with children of any age, as well as for other family members, care givers, friends and relatives.

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