Gambling involves betting something of value, with the conscious intent to win, on an uncertain event whose outcome depends on chance. It includes games of chance such as slot machines and keno, but also sports betting and poker, which involve skill. It can be a great source of entertainment and excitement. However, it can become a problem for some people.
The most common form of gambling is a lottery or a casino game, but it can take many other forms. For example, an individual might make a bet on an election result or a horse race, or even a football game, by placing a bet with a bookmaker or on the Internet. The amount of money that is legally wagered each year on these events is estimated at $10 trillion.
Some people develop an addiction to gambling. Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by repeated and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. It affects people of all ages, but is most likely to occur in adolescence or young adulthood. It can be difficult to overcome and is often accompanied by other problems, such as depression and anxiety. It can be treated with psychotherapy or medications.
Symptoms of pathological gambling include: (1) a compulsive urge to gamble; (2) an inability to control one’s gambling activity; (3) continuing to gamble even after experiencing losses; (4) lying to family members or therapists about the extent of one’s involvement with gambling; (5) making excuses to justify one’s gambling; and (6) using illegal or unethical methods to finance gambling, such as forgery, fraud, theft, embezzlement, etc. (See Gabbard’s Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders, Fifth Edition, American Psychiatric Publishing, 2014).
Research has demonstrated that gambling is a complex phenomenon. Several different theories of the underlying causes of pathological gambling have been proposed. These include genetics, environment, and cognitive processes. Research has shown that it is possible to reduce the occurrence of PG by changing certain behaviors and attitudes.
Educating family members about the risks of gambling is important. They can also help their loved ones set limits on gambling time and money. They can also assist them in finding healthy ways to cope with unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, taking up a hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques. They can also support them in getting help, by contacting a local addiction counselor or attending a family group for people with problem gambling, such as Gam-Anon. It’s important to remember that it is not the gambler’s fault for their addiction; however, they should take responsibility for managing their own finances and credit. In addition, they should not be allowed to use family funds or a bank account for gambling purposes. They should also be encouraged to seek help for any other mental health conditions they may have. This can help them avoid relapse and increase the effectiveness of their treatment plan.