Pathological Gambling

Gambling is any game in which a person stakes something of value on the outcome of a contest or uncertain event involving chance. The amount of money at risk may be small, such as the cost of a lottery ticket, or large, such as a million-dollar jackpot. Gambling can occur in a variety of settings, from casinos and racetracks to gas stations, church halls, and sporting events. It also can take place online and through other means not directly related to games of chance, such as fantasy sports leagues or DIY investing. The term “gambling” is derived from the Latin word gambiliere, which means “to bet.”

The majority of people participate in gambling for fun and entertainment, but a significant minority becomes seriously involved in such activities. For this group, the activity can become problematic and cause substantial personal, family, and financial distress. This phenomenon is referred to as pathological gambling. Pathological gambling is associated with a number of psychosocial and medical disorders, including depression and anxiety. It is associated with an increased likelihood of committing illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, embezzlement, or theft, and may result in jeopardized relationships, careers, or educational or occupational opportunities. It is also associated with social problems such as crime and political corruption.

Many theories have been proposed to explain why some individuals engage in gambling behavior that can lead to serious problems. These include the sensation-seeking theory of Zuckerman and Cloninger, which suggests that individuals engage in gambling behaviors to obtain the positive reinforcement of feeling arousal during periods of uncertainty and for the perceived enjoyment of complex or varied sensations.

Several studies have indicated that pathological gamblers tend to have difficulty controlling their behavior, and that these difficulties may be due to poor impulse control or mood instability. However, the evidence is limited to a small number of persons in treatment, and these studies do not necessarily generalize to the larger population. Moreover, it is not clear whether the criteria for pathological gambling are valid and reliable or if the definition of the disorder should be modified.

Behavioral therapy can help you change your unhealthy gambling habits and the negative thoughts that support them. It can teach you skills to recognize your urges and how to deal with them, as well as provide guidance in solving the family, career, and financial issues that have been caused by your problem gambling. In addition, therapists can address any underlying conditions that may be contributing to your gambling problems, such as depression or bipolar disorder. They can also teach you how to strengthen your support system by reaching out to friends and family members who can help you resist the temptation to gamble. They can also refer you to a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. This is an essential step to recovering from gambling addiction. The organization also offers a hotline that connects you with a former gambler who has successfully recovered from the disorder.