Gambling is an activity where people bet something of value, such as money or possessions, on the outcome of a game of chance. This type of wagering is common in casinos, lotteries, and other public venues, but can also be conducted by individuals at home using games such as marbles or poker, or through social activities such as card games or sports betting. Although gambling is a widely accepted part of human society, it is often considered a harmful behavior and can lead to serious problems for some people.
The American Psychiatric Association defines gambling disorder as a recurring pattern of maladaptive behaviors that result in significant impairment or distress. In its current edition, the DSM-5 lists pathological gambling (PG) as an addictive disorder and notes that a high comorbidity with other mental health disorders is seen in those with this condition. Several self-report and interview tools are available for assessment of PG, and there is evidence that a combination of predisposing and experiential factors contribute to its development in individuals.
While there is no cure for gambling disorder, psychosocial treatments can help a person overcome their addiction and reduce the negative impacts it has on their life. For example, a therapist can teach a person how to recognize and avoid triggers that cause them to gamble, as well as how to manage stress in healthy ways. Medications may be used in conjunction with psychosocial treatments to increase their effectiveness and enhance the symptom reduction they produce.
Although the activity of gambling has been around for centuries, it was not recognized as a mental illness until it was included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. The DSM-5 explains that those who are addicted to gambling may be predisposed to develop a mood disorder, and this is confirmed in epidemiological studies. A high percentage of pathological gamblers exhibit a coexisting mood disorder.
Those who are not able to control their urges to gamble may experience severe financial or emotional problems as a result. In addition, they may engage in other illegal activities, such as forgery, embezzlement, and theft, to finance their gambling habit. The resulting debt can jeopardize relationships, careers, and personal lives.
Individuals who suspect they have a gambling problem can take steps to control their behavior by setting limits on how much they spend, how long they play, and with whom. They can also make a conscious effort to find other ways to obtain positive rewards, such as spending time with friends and family or enjoying hobbies. They can also seek support from a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, a person can try to address any underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to their gambling behavior. This may include addressing depression, anxiety or other conditions. These steps can help them overcome their addiction and live a full, happy life.