Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves putting something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The goal is to win something of equal or greater value. This activity has been around for centuries and is still popular in many countries. However, it can be addictive and lead to financial problems. For people with a gambling disorder, it can be very difficult to stop. Counseling can help people understand why they gamble and learn to manage their problem behaviors. Medications can also be used to treat co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Until recently, most psychiatrists categorized pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder – a fuzzy label that also includes kleptomania (stealing), pyromania (setting fires) and trichotillomania (hair pulling). In what is widely viewed as a major shift, the American Psychiatric Association has moved it to the addictions chapter in the latest edition of its diagnostic manual, the DSM-5. This move reflects the growing understanding of the biology behind addiction.

A person with a gambling disorder has persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause significant distress, functional impairment, or financial loss. They often lie to family members or therapists about the extent of their involvement in gambling, and may have committed illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement, in order to fund their gambling activities. They may also jeopardize their job, educational opportunities, or personal relationships in order to gamble.

In addition, they are preoccupied with gambling and are unable to engage in other recreational activities that are acceptable for others. They tend to gamble more during times of stress, boredom, or social isolation and are characterized by an intense desire to win. Those with a gambling disorder generally begin to show signs of their problem during adolescence or young adulthood. They are also more likely to experience a gambling disorder when they participate in strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as poker or blackjack, than nonstrategic and less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling such as slot machines or bingo.

The first step to overcoming gambling is admitting that you have a problem. This can be a very difficult step, especially if you have lost money and strained or broken relationships as a result of your habit. You can find support from friends and family, and if necessary, from peer groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. It is also important to find ways to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthy and productive ways. For example, exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up a new hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques can all be good alternatives to gambling.

Finally, it is vital to get rid of any temptations by removing credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances, and closing your online betting accounts. It is also a good idea to keep a low amount of disposable income for gambling and only gamble with money that you can afford to lose.