Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event whose outcome is determined at least in part by chance. This includes activities such as lotteries, casino games and sports betting. It can also include activities that involve the use of skills to improve the chances of winning, such as marbles or collectible card games.
In addition to being a common leisure activity, gambling can be a highly lucrative commercial enterprise. However, many people struggle with a gambling addiction that affects their physical and mental health, work and home life. A gambling addiction can be extremely difficult to treat, but there are many resources available.
Problem gambling is gambling that is done excessively, causing it to negatively impact other areas of a person’s life, such as their mental health, school or work performance, finances and/or personal relationships. It can cause significant distress or impairment and is classified as a mental illness by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
While most adults and adolescents have placed a bet, only a small percentage go on to develop a gambling disorder, defined in the DSM-5 as a persistent, recurrent pattern of behavior that is associated with substantial harm or impairment. While there are no medications that are FDA-approved to treat gambling disorders, psychotherapy and other forms of therapy can help individuals understand their problematic behaviors and develop coping strategies.
A variety of factors contribute to gambling problems, including genetic predispositions, environmental influences and the availability of various types of gambling options. These factors can influence how a person responds to risk, whether they feel a sense of urgency to gamble and their ability to control impulses. They can also make it difficult for someone to recognize when their gambling is becoming a problem and can lead them to hide their activity or lie about how much they are spending.
Researchers are working to better understand what makes some people vulnerable to developing a gambling problem. They are examining factors like how well a person processes rewards and weighs risks, their response to stress and how they are influenced by their peers and culture. Longitudinal studies are also helping to shed light on the complexities of gambling behaviour and how it changes over time.
Those struggling with a gambling problem can benefit from support groups, family therapy and credit, financial and career counseling. It can be helpful to remember that there are others who have overcome this issue and that it is possible to regain control of one’s life and finances. Inpatient treatment and rehabilitation programs are available for those who need around-the-clock care to address severe gambling disorders. It is important to seek out these services if a loved one’s gambling is impacting their mental and physical health, work or school performance, finances or personal relationships.