The problem gambler experiences adverse consequences in personal, social, and occupational functioning, and he or she continues to gamble despite the clearly negative outcomes and even loss of enjoyment of the activity. Pathologic gambling represents a significant public health problem, and problem gambling is clearly associated with crime, incarceration, financial ruin, alcohol and drug addiction, suicide, and psychiatric disturbance.
The gambler who has legal problems is likely to be male, unemployed, single and abusing drugs or alcohol. Pathologic gamblers who have not been arrested tend to be female, and they tend to be involved in what are called non-strategic forms of gambling such as lotteries or slot machines.
The diagnosis of pathologic gambling generally occurs as the gambler gets older, because gambling skill often deteriorates over time -- perhaps as long as 2 or 3 decades. Females tend to get involved later in life, in their thirties or forties, whereas males often begin during adolescence. Women seem to deteriorate more rapidly and seek help after only a few years; whereas with men, the problem may persist for many years.
About half of pathologic gamblers are alcohol or substance abusers, and this is particularly true among adolescents. Teen gamblers have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use than nongambling peers, and among teen substance abusers, the rates of problem gambling have been estimated as high as 10% to 30% in different studies. Problem gamblers have exceedingly high rates of mood problems: depression (32% to 76%), mania and hypomania (46%) and suicide attempts (12%). The co-occurrence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is estimated at about 20%; when adult problem gamblers are compared with controls, the gamblers are significantly more likely to have childhood behaviour problems.