Gambling addiction has been added to the DSM-5, which is the official diagnostic tool used by psychologists and psychiatrists. Gambling addiction is the first non-substance-based addiction to be added to the industry-standard manual, but The Huffington Post has criticised the decision, saying this addition has broadened the scope of the ‘addiction’ diagnosis to include far more than gambling.
Dr Charles O’Brien has defended the addition by stating that “pathological gambling and substance-use disorders are very similar in the way they affect the brain and neurological reward system.” O’Brien is not an addiction expert but rather specializes in substance abuse, and he is a vocal member of the group of doctors who believe that addiction is not a behavioral issue but rather a chronic brain disease that must be treated neurologically as well as psychologically. He examined studies that showed gambling addiction makes the brain behave the same way as cocaine or alcohol addiction does: creating compulsive, destructive behaviour.
Critics argue that gambling addiction is on the same level as sex addiction and similar non-substance-based addictions, but this does not mean that gambling doesn’t belong in the addiction category of the DSM-5, as it is a valid diagnosis. Rather, the addition of a non-substance-abuse related addiction opens the door for a wider re-evaluation of what qualifies as an addiction, and how best it can be treated.