How to Recognize a Gambling Problem


Gambling is an activity in which something of value (a bet) is placed on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. The earliest evidence of gambling is thought to be dice and other playing equipment unearthed in tombs dating back to ancient China. Gambling is often a recreational activity for some, while for others it can be problematic and even addictive. The most common forms of gambling include:

The amount of money that is illegally wagered worldwide on various events is estimated to be about $10 trillion a year. It is a popular pastime in many countries, and it can be extremely lucrative for the gamblers who have the right skills. However, it is important to remember that gambling can also be very addictive, and it is possible to develop a pathological gambling disorder.

Symptoms of pathological gambling (PG) are recurrent maladaptive patterns of behavior involving risk-taking, compulsive urges to gamble, and persistent negative consequences of gambling. Symptoms are usually present by adolescence or young adulthood and develop into a problem several years later. Males tend to develop PG more quickly and at an earlier age than females. PG is most common in strategic, face-to-face gambling activities such as poker or blackjack, but it can occur with nonstrategic forms of gambling such as slot machines and bingo as well.

There are four main reasons people gamble. They may be doing it for social reasons, to win money, for entertainment, or because they enjoy the rush or high that comes from gambling. People who gamble for social or financial reasons tend to have more serious problems, as they are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. They are also more likely to be in debt and spend more time at work. The psychological effects of gambling can also have negative impacts on a person’s relationships and family life.

Although it can be hard to recognize a gambling problem, there are several signs that may indicate a person is struggling with the condition. For example, a person who is struggling with PG may:

There are a number of treatment options for a gambling addiction. Counseling and psychotherapy are often recommended as they can help a person understand their situation, consider options, and solve problems. Medications are sometimes used to treat co-occurring conditions, but they are not commonly prescribed for gambling disorders alone. For people who struggle with gambling, it is a good idea to learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.