After years of discussion, research, speculation and debate, the newly revised 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) of the American Psychiatric Association has changed the way problem gambling is classified. The DSM is the handbook of mental disorders in the United States and is used by health care providers, insurance companies, researchers and practitioners. Major changes to the classification of problem gambling may have a significant impact on the assessment, treatment and insurance coverage of gambling issues.

From Impulse Control to Addiction

Pathological gambling was added to the DSM in 1980 and was classified under “Impulse-Control Disorders” in the 4th edition. This placed problem gambling in company with disorders such as compulsive stealing and fire starting. The new edition move pathological gambling under a new classification called “Addiction and Related Disorders,” essentially recognizing that gambling addiction is vastly similar to alcohol and drug addiction.

This change has been driven by extensive brain research indicating pathological gambling produces the same effect on the reward and pleasure center of the brain as does substance abuse and other similar addictions. The DSM is available at