Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves risking something of value on an uncertain event in the hope of winning money or another item of value. It is a form of recreation for many people, and it can be fun, but it can also lead to addiction. In some cases, it can even be dangerous.

Gambling is a popular activity worldwide. It takes many forms, from lottery tickets and the betting of small amounts of money by poor people to sophisticated casino gambling in the wealthy world. It can be legal or illegal, and it is often highly addictive.

Some people are more susceptible to developing a gambling problem than others. Genetics may play a role, as can life events and circumstances. Children who grow up in homes where gambling is a way of life are more likely to develop a gambling disorder than those in families where the activity is not common. People who have financial problems are more likely to gamble, as are those who have depression or other mental illnesses.

Symptoms of gambling disorders can include a compulsive urge to gamble, losing control over how much is spent, lying about how much is spent, and spending more money than one has. People who have a gambling disorder may also feel an intense craving for the feeling they get when they win, and they may have trouble thinking clearly. They often feel the need to be secretive about their gambling and lie to friends and family members. They might try to rationalize their compulsions by telling themselves that they will only gamble for a short time or that they will win big.

Many treatment programs are available for people with gambling disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help a person understand their gambling problem and learn ways to stop it. These programs also teach a person how to confront irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a streak of losses will eventually turn into a win. Some programs involve family therapy.

People with gambling problems can also benefit from support groups. Groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, can offer encouragement and guidance to those struggling with gambling disorders. Other options for obtaining support include seeking counseling, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, volunteering for a good cause, and spending time with family and friends who do not gamble.

It can be difficult to cope with a loved one’s gambling disorder, especially when it interferes with family life. Family members can try to set limits on how much money a person can spend and encourage them to seek professional help. They can also reach out to a support group such as Gam-Anon, which offers support to family members of problem gamblers. If a family member is abusing credit cards or other assets, they can consider taking over their finances until the problem is resolved. Some individuals with severe gambling problems may need inpatient or residential treatment and rehab.