Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money, on an event with a chance of winning a prize. The event may be an activity like buying a lottery ticket or a horse race, or a game like roulette, slots, blackjack, cards, bingo, or keno. The chances of winning range from a small amount to life-changing sums of money. It is important to understand the risks and benefits of gambling before you begin.

A large number of people gamble without any problems, but some become addicted to gambling. These individuals have a gambling disorder, which is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent and recurrent maladaptive pattern of gambling behavior that causes substantial distress or impairment. A few percent of gamblers develop this problem. It is more common among men than women, and it often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. It also is more common among people with lower incomes, who have more to lose and would be disproportionately affected by a significant loss.

Some of the negative effects of gambling include:

1. Gambling can cause financial distress, including the inability to pay bills or debts; and 2. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress.

3. It can lead to addiction, especially if it is combined with other types of addictions.

4. It can lead to feelings of helplessness, guilt, and anxiety.

5. After a losing streak, gamblers return the next day in an attempt to get even (“chasing losses”).

6. Many people who are addicted to gambling lie about their gambling activities, lying to family members or therapists about how much time and money they spend on the game, and hiding evidence of their gambling.

7. Several cognitive and motivational biases can distort the perceived odds of events in gambling, causing a person to prefer certain bets over others. These biases are similar to those that affect insurance premiums, which are set using actuarial methods that are very similar to the way gambling odds are calculated.

8. A reluctance to admit that there is a problem can lead to an inability to seek treatment.

9. Conclusion: There are a variety of treatment options for people with gambling disorders, including psychotherapy and family therapy. Psychotherapy can help a person learn healthier ways to cope with unpleasant emotions and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. Family therapy can help a person repair damaged relationships and build a stronger home environment. Individuals with a gambling disorder may benefit from group therapy, in which they can discuss their experiences and learn from other people’s stories of recovery. A therapist can also recommend family education programs to help them better understand and support their loved one.