Gambling Disorders

Gambling Jul 22, 2023

Gambling is the act of betting something of value, usually money, on an event that is based on random chance, where skill and knowledge are discounted. This can include placing a bet on a football game, horse race, scratchcard or even playing video poker in a casino. Although many people consider gambling to be an enjoyable pastime, it can also have serious consequences for some individuals. Problem gambling affects people from all walks of life and can be detrimental to their physical health, mental wellbeing, work performance and personal relationships. It can even lead to bankruptcy and homelessness. The most common cause of gambling problems is addiction.

A person who has a gambling disorder experiences intense urges to gamble, finds it difficult to control their spending and may experience other psychological symptoms such as anxiety or depression. They are often preoccupied with gambling and may lie to family members about how much they gamble or how frequently they gamble. A person with a gambling disorder may also make repeated unsuccessful attempts to reduce their involvement in gambling, and may steal or borrow to fund their activity. They might also spend long periods of time thinking about or reliving past gambling experiences, or be preoccupied with predicting the outcome of future gambles.

Psychiatrists diagnose mental disorders using criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The latest version, DSM-5, places gambling disorder in a new category on behavioral addictions and reflects research findings that the condition shares some characteristics with substance-related disorders.

The main criterion for diagnosis is that the gambling behavior causes significant distress or interferes with a person’s functioning in daily activities and relationships. Those with an addiction to gambling often struggle to recognize their problem and seek treatment. They can be influenced by their culture’s values about gambling, which can lead them to ignore or minimize the severity of their addiction. They can also be influenced by biological factors, including genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity.

Various treatment options exist to help someone with a gambling addiction, and these are often individualized to the individual’s circumstances. Psychotherapy can address the underlying issues and teach coping skills, while medication can reduce cravings or provide temporary relief from symptoms of depression or anxiety. Changing one’s environment can also be helpful. For example, removing credit cards from a person’s wallet can prevent them from making more impulse purchases, and setting strict bank withdrawal and spending limits can help a person avoid getting into debt or losing control of their finances. Support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can also be beneficial. The most important step is to admit that a person has a gambling addiction, which can be very hard to do, especially for people who have lost large amounts of money or strained or broken their relationships as a result of the habit.