Gambling Disorders


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value – money, property, reputation or health – on an event with an element of chance. It can take many forms: lotteries, casino games (e.g. card games, fruit machines and slot machines), sports gambling, and even online gaming and social media betting. Although gambling is a fun activity for some, it can be very harmful to others and cause severe financial ruin, emotional distress and social problems.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has classified pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder in the past, but this year it moved it to a new category on behavioral addictions in the fifth edition, which was published in May. This change reflects research findings that gambling disorder shares biological, psychological and social similarities with substance-related disorders.

A number of factors can contribute to gambling disorders, including family history, genetic predisposition, and social and environmental influences. Some people are more prone to gambling addiction because of the way their brains process reward information, control impulses and weigh risks. Other factors include stress, anxiety and depression. Some individuals begin gambling as a form of escape or as a way to distract themselves from other problems. They often lie to themselves and others about their spending habits and may hide their activity from those around them, fearing they will be judged or found out.

Despite the fact that gambling is illegal in some states, four out of five Americans have gambled at least once. It is a highly popular pastime and can be very addictive. While some people who engage in gambling can stop on their own, the majority of those with gambling disorders need help.

Problems associated with gambling can impact physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or school, and cause bankruptcy and homelessness. In addition, gambling can lead to substance abuse and gambling addiction. The good news is that there are many ways to overcome a gambling problem. The most important thing is to remove the urge and find alternative activities, such as exercise, spending time with friends or relatives, or volunteering. Having a budget and not using credit or debit cards for gambling can also help. Another important step is to never chase your losses, which means increasing your bets in a hope of recouping lost money.

If someone you care about has a problem with gambling, try to understand their perspective. Their behaviour may seem unreasonable, but remember that they don’t choose to gamble and it is not their fault. They are likely influenced by culture, which makes it difficult to recognise gambling as a problem, and they might be tempted to use gambling as a coping mechanism for other problems they are facing. It is also possible that they feel shame or guilt about their gambling addiction, which can hinder them from seeking help. In such cases, family and group therapy can be very useful.