Gambling addiction describes an impaired ability to resist the impulse to make financial wagers on games or activities that rely heavily on chance. Gambling addiction is indicated when gambling activities continue despite the harmful consequences of participation. These harmful consequences may include: 1) risky, dangerous, or unhealthy behaviors (e.g., borrowing money from unconventional sources); 2) damage to relationships; 3) financial consequences; 4) legal consequences; or 5) a failure to fulfill important life roles such as employee, student, spouse, parent, friend, etc. Some examples of these consequences are getting into arguments with a spouse or partner because of financial problems due to gambling; losing a job because the employee did not return from a lunch break because s/he remained at the race track; becoming a victim of assault because of failure to repay unconventional loans.
Gambling addiction falls into a specific category of addictions called activity addictions (or behavioral addictions). In our topic center on addiction, we define addiction:
Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable
This definition of addiction includes four key components:
1. Addiction includes both substances and activities (such as gambling).
2. Addiction leads to substantial harm.
3. Addiction is repeated involvement despite substantial harm.
4. Addiction continues because it was, or is pleasurable and/or valuable.
You can read more about this definition of addiction in the article entitled, "What is gambling addiction?"