Pathological Gambling

Gambling is the placing of something of value (usually money) at risk on an event with an element of chance, with a potential to win a larger prize. Gambling is a popular activity worldwide and involves many forms, including lottery tickets, casino games, poker, bingo, races, animal tracks, sports events, dice, and more. Despite its popularity, gambling is a major source of social and economic problems for some individuals, including those with pathological gambling disorder.

In a recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pathological gambling has been recognised as an addiction akin to substance use disorders. It is thought that people with pathological gambling may have genetic predispositions or psychological conditions that make them more susceptible to excessive betting. This makes it particularly difficult for them to control their impulses and they are likely to continue to gamble despite experiencing negative consequences.

Studies have shown that the more a person wins, the less likely they are to stop. In addition, near misses (such as two same-type symbols on a slot machine) encourage people to gamble because they provide reinforcement that the next spin might be a winner.

If you have a gambling problem, it is important to seek help. There are various treatment options, including psychotherapy and medication. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help you think differently about your gambling behavior. Medications can reduce anxiety and depression, which might be contributing to your urge to gamble. You can also get support from family and friends, and join a gambling-related self-help group like Gamblers Anonymous.