Whether you buy lottery tickets, gamble online or roll dice in a casino, most people engage in some form of gambling. But how does it work, and what are the risks? And can you break the cycle of gambling addiction? Read on to learn more about this intriguing pastime.
The Psychiatric Academy’s decision to recognize pathological gambling as a mental health condition reflects the growing evidence that this behavior, once dismissed as a trivial habit, can cause real problems for many individuals. It also underscores the importance of better treatment, especially as legalized gambling expands and becomes increasingly accessible worldwide.
In its simplest form, gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value. It is an activity that has long been a major international commercial enterprise, with the total global legal gambling market amounting to about $335 billion in 2009. Gambling is typically conducted with money or something that has financial value, such as collectible game pieces (like marbles, Pogs and Magic: The Gathering cards), but may also be done with other materials that have symbolic significance, such as the outcome of a political election or the results of a sporting event.
Gambling has been practiced since early human history, with writings and equipment of the period showing that it was a common activity in ancient China and Rome. As the activity became more widespread, it began to be considered a vice and even a sin and was prohibited in some cultures, but today four out of five Western people say they gamble at least occasionally. In addition, the Internet has made gambling much more accessible.
People who suffer from pathological gambling can experience a range of symptoms, including:
It’s important to note that the Food and Drug Administration does not currently approve any medications specifically to treat gambling disorder, but several types of psychotherapy can help. Psychotherapy focuses on changing unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors through conversations with a licensed mental health professional. This includes psychodynamic therapy, which examines how unconscious processes can influence behavior. Group therapy and family therapy are also helpful in addressing issues that have arisen as a result of problem gambling.
In addition to these treatment options, you can reduce your exposure to gambling and other triggers by seeking counseling for underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. You can also take control of your finances by establishing clear boundaries and addressing debt problems through debt advice services, such as StepChange. For additional support, consider reaching out to a gambling support group like Gamblers Anonymous. And, if your gambling is impacting other areas of your life, such as family and relationships, you can seek marriage, career and credit counseling.