Gambling disorder

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Jul 25;5(1):51. doi: 10.1038/s41572-019-0099-7.


Gambling disorder is characterized by a persistent, recurrent pattern of gambling that is associated with substantial distress or impairment. The prevalence of gambling disorder has been estimated at 0.5% of the adult population in the United States, with comparable or slightly higher estimates in other countries. The aetiology of gambling disorder is complex, with implicated genetic and environmental factors. Neurobiological studies have implicated cortico-striato-limbic structures and circuits in the pathophysiology of this disorder. Individuals with gambling disorder often go unrecognized and untreated, including within clinical settings. Gambling disorder frequently co-occurs with other conditions, particularly other psychiatric disorders. Behavioural interventions, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy but also motivational interviewing and Gamblers Anonymous, are supported in the treatment of gambling disorder. No pharmacological therapy has a formal indication for the treatment of gambling disorder, although placebo-controlled trials suggest that some medications, such as opioid-receptor antagonists, may be helpful. Given the associations with poor quality of life and suicide, improved identification, prevention, policy and treatment efforts are needed to help people with gambling disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / abnormalities
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / trends
  • Gambling / epidemiology
  • Gambling / psychology*
  • Help-Seeking Behavior
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors