Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or other valuables based on the outcome of a game with an element of chance. This includes activities such as lotteries, scratchcards, casino games and sports betting. It excludes business transactions based on knowledge or skill, such as making investments or purchasing life insurance.
It is estimated that about 2 million Americans (1%) meet the diagnostic criteria for a gambling disorder. This figure does not include the many more who have mild or moderate problems. People who gamble can have a variety of reasons for their behavior, from recreational interest to diminished mathematical skills, poor judgment, cognitive distortions, mental illness or moral turpitude. They may also be influenced by genetic predisposition, environmental factors such as a family history of gambling or a high prevalence of gambling in their community and social factors such as low incomes, easy access to gaming establishments and societal attitudes toward the activity.
The most common way to treat a gambling problem is with psychotherapy, which helps people understand their unhealthy emotions and thoughts and change them. This type of treatment usually takes place with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. Support from family and friends can also be helpful. There are no FDA-approved medications for treating gambling disorders, but some medications can help treat co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety.
The first step in overcoming a gambling problem is admitting that there is a problem. This can be hard, especially if the problem has caused financial loss and strained or broken relationships. Reach out for support from a loved one or a local gambling support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous.