Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves risking something of value on an event whose outcome is determined in part by chance. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded times, and it is a common element of local customs and rites of passage. It can also be found in many forms, from the lottery to betting on sports events and horse races. Many people have no problem with gambling and even enjoy it; however, a small subset of gamblers develop a gambling disorder. A gambling disorder is characterized by the compulsion to bet money or items of value in order to gain a desired emotional, cognitive or material result. Gambling has been linked to criminal activity, political corruption and positive and negative economic and social impacts.

In the United States, most adults and adolescents have placed a wager of some kind. This includes everything from playing bingo to buying lottery or scratch tickets, and placing bets with friends. The vast majority of these wagers are legal and do not pose a serious threat to the gambler’s health or well-being. But it’s important to understand the distinction between a gambling habit and a pathological gambling disorder. A person with a gambling disorder is not in control of their behavior and may exhibit symptoms such as compulsive and repetitive wagering, distorted thinking, poor judgment and difficulty with money management.

The most critical step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. It takes courage and strength to do so, especially if your gambling has caused you financial hardship or has strained or ruined relationships. However, there are resources available to help you get back on track. Many communities have certified gambling counselors and intensive treatment programs, such as BetterHelp, a national service that matches you with a therapist who can provide online or phone support.

There is an increasing awareness of the prevalence of gambling problems and the importance of prevention and intervention. Recent research has shed light on the factors that make some individuals more vulnerable to developing a gambling disorder. It has also helped to identify the types of gambling that are most dangerous and the potential health impacts of those activities. In addition, it has improved understanding of the relationship between gambling and other psychiatric disorders. For example, about 4% of people treated for substance use disorders have gambling disorder and nearly 7% of those hospitalized for psychiatric care have gambling disorder.

The most effective way to deal with a gambling addiction is to seek treatment. This can be done through peer-support groups like Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Other helpful strategies include setting boundaries in managing money; taking control of family finances; and reviewing bank and credit card statements. It is also important to find new ways to spend your time and to seek out healthy, uplifting activities. Research shows that physical exercise and social involvement can reduce cravings for gambling.