Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves placing a bet on a random event for a prize, where the chances of winning are influenced by chance and not by skill. It can involve betting on sports events, horse races, lotteries and scratchcards. There are also online games such as slots, video poker and blackjack that can be considered gambling. Gambling is illegal in some jurisdictions and is regulated by governments.

Some people develop a serious problem with gambling. Their behavior may be compulsive and out of control, affecting their work or family life. They may lie to family members or therapists about how much they gamble, and spend money and time they don’t have. They might even steal to fund their habit, or use credit cards or payday loans to cover their losses. Their problems can lead to financial difficulties, mental health issues and substance abuse.

In recent years, psychologists and other experts have become increasingly concerned that the growing accessibility of gambling is making it easier for more and more people to develop problems. The evidence indicates that younger people, particularly young boys and men, are at particular risk. They are more likely to participate in the newest forms of gambling, such as sports betting and video game-based gambling. They are also more likely to start gambling at an early age, and this is associated with higher levels of psychological distress.

There are some people who develop a severe gambling disorder, and this is known as pathological gambling. This is a psychological illness, and it is treated in the same way as other mental disorders. People with pathological gambling meet criteria for a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, and they experience a wide range of symptoms.

Pathological gamblers often feel they are the only ones who have a problem, and this can make them resistant to treatment. They might try to justify their gambling by arguing that it relieves stress or improves their mood. They might also blame their problems on other factors, such as recreational interest, poor judgment, diminished mathematical skills, impulsivity, cognitive distortions or mental illness.

Treatment for gambling problems usually includes some form of behavioural therapy. This can help to change the beliefs and behaviours that cause the problem. It can include techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which examines the way a person thinks about gambling. For example, someone with a gambling problem might believe they are more likely to win than they really are, or that certain rituals will bring luck. CBT can teach the person better ways of thinking about gambling, and how to set limits on their spending and time spent gambling. It is also helpful to get support from family and friends if someone is struggling with problem gambling. This can prevent them from isolating themselves, and it can help them realize that other families have experienced similar problems. It can also help them set boundaries in managing their own money, and to avoid borrowing or relying on others to fund their gambling habits.