Should the scope of addictive behaviors be broadened to include pathological gambling?


Nancy M. Petry, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030–3944, USA. E-mail:


Aims  Pathological gambling is currently considered an impulse control disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This paper considers the prospect of reclassifying and broadening the substance use disorders to include non-pharmacological addictions such as pathological gambling.

Methods  Literature reviews were conducted on areas relevant to pathological gambling and its classification and similarities to substance use disorders.

Results  The diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling are outlined across the three versions of the DSM since its initial introduction. The paper also describes instruments that have been used to assess the disorder, basic epidemiology and some biological and genetic data, especially in terms of potential overlap with substance use disorders. Similarities and differences with respect to treatments are reviewed as well.

Conclusions  Both advantages and disadvantages should be considered with respect to expanding the classification system to include pathological gambling within the context of addictive disorders.