Gambling is an activity in which participants risk something of value (such as money or a physical prize) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The purpose of gambling is to win more than what has been risked, and the majority of people who gamble lose their money. Gambling occurs in many different forms, including betting on sporting events or games of chance, playing cards with friends, participating in a lottery pool, and buying scratch-off tickets. It can be considered a form of entertainment and is often seen as fun, although it has the potential to cause serious problems for some individuals.
There are a number of ways to get help with gambling addiction, but only one in ten people with gambling disorder seek treatment. Several types of therapy are effective, and some may be more appropriate for certain patients than others. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and group or family therapy. Some patients respond to medication, while others do better with other interventions, such as hypnotherapy or motivational interviewing.
The first step to overcoming an addictive habit is recognising the problem. This can be difficult, as the urge to gamble can be so strong and feel like a normal part of life. People who struggle with a gambling problem may experience anxiety or depression and have difficulty functioning in their everyday lives. They often lie to their family members or therapists and jeopardize their jobs, educational opportunities, or relationships as a result of their gambling behavior. They may also resort to illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, or theft, to finance their gambling activities.
It is important to identify the reasons behind a person’s gambling habits and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions or boredom. In addition to finding new hobbies, exercising, and spending time with friends who do not gamble, it is also helpful to reduce financial risks, such as removing credit cards, putting someone else in charge of finances, and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand.
In the past, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania or pyromania (hair-pulling). However, in response to the high comorbidity of this disorder with other addictions and the fact that it is more likely to be caused by biological factors than by environmental influences, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder into the Addictions chapter in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The change was meant to increase awareness and encourage screening and research into treatment options. (Petry, 2000; Shaffer, 2001). In the future, the APA hopes to provide more specific criteria for the diagnosis of this disorder. This will allow researchers to more accurately measure the prevalence of gambling disorders and develop more targeted treatments for them. In the meantime, it is vital that family members and loved ones support each other and understand that gambling addiction is a treatable condition.