Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves putting something of value at risk in exchange for the chance to win. It can take many forms: playing card games like poker or blackjack; betting on sports events like football or horse races; lottery tickets; instant scratch-off cards; bingo; and speculating (betting on business, insurance or stock market returns). People gamble for social reasons, for entertainment, to pass time or as a way to win money. They may also feel a rush or high when they place a bet or win. For some, gambling becomes a serious problem.

Biological factors, such as a genetic predisposition for thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, can increase the risk of developing gambling problems. These factors can make it harder to resist the urge to gamble, to control impulsive behaviour and to weigh risks and rewards. Other factors can contribute to gambling addiction, including family history, environment and medical conditions. Children and teenagers are at higher risk than adults for developing a gambling disorder.

A person’s cultural values and beliefs can affect their response to gambling activity. For example, some cultures consider gambling a social pastime and find it difficult to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy behaviour. This can lead to denial or a lack of awareness that there is a problem. It is also important to recognize that the problem can be exacerbated by financial or other pressures, such as a loss of employment or a family crisis.

It is also important to seek help if you suspect that a loved one has a gambling problem. You might consider attending a family support group, such as Gam-Anon or Gamblers Anonymous. Counselling can also be useful in understanding gambling disorder and exploring options for change.

There is a wide range of treatments available for problem gambling. For some people, medication may be helpful in managing impulses and reducing cravings. It is important to note, however, that there are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorder itself.

Research in this area is continuing, and it is possible that some individuals may progress along a continuum of gambling difficulties. In addition, the criteria used to diagnose pathological gambling are based on clinical data and not a scientific consensus (Volberg, 1998).

Trying to overcome problem gambling can be very challenging. It is not unusual for people with gambling problems to try to hide their behaviour from friends and family members, especially if they have already experienced harm or a negative impact on their lives. Often, they will lie about how much they are spending and will hide evidence of their gambling activity. In addition, they may have difficulty recognizing their own feelings of anxiety or depression, making them even more vulnerable to harmful and addictive behaviours. It is therefore important to seek help if you think that you have a gambling problem. This may include counselling and therapy. Family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling are particularly effective for treating gambling disorders and repairing damaged relationships.