Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

To be diagnosed with a gambling disorder, you must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM criteria for the diagnosis of gambling disorder require that a person have four or more of the following signs and symptoms present within one year:

  • Is preoccupied with gambling, such as reliving past gambling experiences or planning ways to get gambling money
  • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money to become excited
  • Tries to control, cut back or stop gambling, without success
  • Gets restless or irritable when attempting to cut down on gambling
  • Gambles as a way to escape problems or to relieve feelings of helplessness or sadness
  • Chases losses, or tries to get back lost money by gambling more
  • Lies to family members, therapists or others to hide the extent of gambling
  • Jeopardizes or loses an important relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Turns to others for money when the financial situation becomes desperate

Because excessive gambling can sometimes be a sign of bipolar disorder, mental health providers need to rule out this disorder before making a diagnosis.

Feb. 12, 2014