Gambling Addiction


Gambling is the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the hope of winning. It is considered an addiction when the behavior interferes with a person’s normal functioning and causes psychological or physical problems. People with pathological gambling (PG) experience persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. PG often starts in adolescence or early adulthood and is more common among men than women, though it can affect people of any age.

Although many people have gambled at some point in their lives, there are a few key factors that make someone more likely to develop a problem. For example, a person who has family members with a history of gambling may be at a higher risk for developing a disorder. A history of depression, substance abuse or anxiety can also trigger or be made worse by compulsive gambling.

While it can be difficult for a person to admit they have a gambling disorder, recognizing the issue is the first step towards getting help. Seeking support from friends and family, or joining a group for families affected by gambling (such as Gam-Anon), can be helpful. In addition, addressing mood disorders and learning to manage finances can help with recovery.

Several different treatment approaches have been used to treat a gambling problem, but they have had mixed results. This is due to a lack of research that compares treatments, as well as differences in underlying conceptualizations of the cause of the disorder. Integrated approaches that include family therapy and financial management have been most effective, but even these have had only limited success.

Research on gambling has been hampered by the difficulty of designing a control group to study the effects of a new treatment. In addition, the nomenclature used for gambling is inconsistent, as researchers, psychiatrists, other clinicians and public policy makers tend to frame questions about the topic differently, depending on their disciplinary training, special interests or world view.

A variety of types of gambling are available, from traditional casino and card games to lottery and scratch tickets, horse racing and football accumulators, and betting on business or insurance. Speculation on stock markets and other financial instruments is also considered a form of gambling. While many people think of gambling as a dangerous and addictive activity, it is possible to win money at these games, provided that the bettor understands the odds and the risks involved. The most important thing to remember is that gambling is not a way to relieve emotional distress. A person who feels depressed, anxious or angry should seek psychiatric care. A doctor or counselor can recommend a treatment that works for each individual. A therapist can also teach clients coping skills and help them identify negative thinking patterns that contribute to gambling disorder. They can also provide advice on how to deal with family and credit issues arising from a gambling addiction.