Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event of chance with the intent to win something else of value. It involves three elements: consideration, risk and a prize. While the majority of people who gamble do so in a responsible manner, there are those who become addicted to gambling, and the problem can have serious consequences. Addiction to gambling is a serious, complex, and treatable disorder that affects the way an individual thinks, feels, and behaves.
Understanding and overcoming the symptoms of gambling addiction requires a thorough assessment and a variety of interventions, such as individual and group therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. In addition, people with gambling addiction should also seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to the condition, such as depression and anxiety.
Until recently, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, and placed it in the same category as such impulse control disorders as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, because of its high comorbidity with other substance abuse problems and its strong relationship to personality disorders and depression, the American Psychiatric Association moved the condition from the impulse control disorder to the addictions chapter in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called DSM-5.
Although it has always been possible for some people to make a living from gambling, there is and has been a long history of legal prohibitions on the activity, often on moral or religious grounds, or to prevent the spread of disease, or to preserve public order where gambling has been associated with violent disputes. In many jurisdictions, gambling is also illegal because it can undermine family and community life.
Some people are predisposed to developing gambling problems, especially if they experience childhood or teenage trauma or have a family member with a gambling disorder. Other factors include age, sex, and the type of gambling behavior. Compulsive gamblers often develop their problems during adolescence or early adulthood, and are more likely to have a family history of a gambling disorder. Males are more likely to develop a gambling problem than females, and they tend to be more affected by strategic, face-to-face forms of gambling such as blackjack or poker.
The most effective treatment for gambling addiction is cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and behaviors by challenging their irrational beliefs about why they gamble. This approach also helps to address underlying mood disorders that can trigger and worsen gambling disorder, including depression, stress, and substance abuse. Changing these negative moods is a key to getting healthy again. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that gambling should be a recreational activity and not a source of income or financial stability. It is therefore essential to set money and time limits in advance, and never to use gambling as a way to pay for other necessities.