Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or other assets) on the outcome of a game of chance. While some forms of gambling can be a fun way to pass the time and socialize, it is important for people to remember that they always have the option to stop and seek help if their habit has become dangerous.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious mental health disorder. PG causes a person to experience repeated, maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors that cause significant distress and problems in their daily functioning. Typically, a person with PG begins to gamble in adolescence or early adulthood and develops a problem several years later.
The amount of money legally wagered on a variety of events and games around the world is estimated to exceed $10 trillion. The most common types of gambling are lotteries, casino games and sports betting. The majority of legal gambling takes place in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Often, people will bet on sporting events such as horse races and football matches. In addition, many states and territories offer state-licensed or state-organized lotteries and sports pools.
A person who has a gambling addiction may experience any of the following symptoms:
Losing more than they can afford to lose. Continuing to gamble even though it is taking up too much of their time or causing other issues in their life. Downplaying or lying to family members, friends or a therapist about the extent of their involvement in gambling. Borrowing money or selling personal belongings to fund gambling activities. Using illegal activities, such as theft, forgery or embezzlement, to finance gambling.
Various therapies have been developed to treat a person with a gambling addiction, including psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy is a term that encompasses several different treatment techniques, and it takes place with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker.
Psychotherapy can be effective in treating a person with a gambling disorder, especially if they are willing to work with the therapist on changing their unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. It is also important for them to learn healthier ways to cope with unpleasant feelings, such as boredom or loneliness.
The Food and Drug Administration does not approve any medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can be helpful. This type of therapy aims to change a person’s unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The therapist can teach the patient new skills to handle stress and other factors that could lead them to gamble. Several different types of psychotherapy are available, and some have been shown to be more effective than others.