Pathological Gambling


Gambling is an activity involving wagering something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. It requires three elements: consideration, risk and a prize. A person can gamble with money, merchandise or services. People can also gamble with intangible goods such as game pieces or collectable cards.

Gambling has a long history and is a large international industry. Throughout the world, gambling is conducted in many forms including lotteries, games of chance and sports events. It is a common recreational activity, and in some countries it is considered to be legal. However, gambling can cause serious problems for some individuals. Approximately 1 in 7 people are affected by gambling addiction.

There is a growing consensus that pathological gambling should be classified as an impulse control disorder, similar to other disorders such as alcoholism and drug addiction. This shift in understanding has been reflected in, and stimulated by, the evolving clinical classification of pathological gambling within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

In addition to its impact on the individual, problem gambling can affect families, workplaces and society as a whole. Family members can feel alienated from their loved one, and work and credit can be abused as the gambler attempts to compensate for lost income or to meet spending obligations. Some communities may view gambling as a socially acceptable pastime, making it difficult for them to recognize a gambling problem in their own member.

Several models have been advanced to explain the causes of pathological gambling. These include a general theory of addictions, reward deficiency syndrome, behavioral-environmental reasons and the biopsychosocial model. Although there is little empirical evidence to support these models, they are important in shaping intervention and research strategies as well as public opinion and policy decisions.

Some researchers have also highlighted the role of genetic predisposition in gambling. There is some evidence that some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity, and that this can influence the ways in which they process reward information, control their impulses and weigh risks. Others have emphasized the influence of culture in how a person views gambling and its effects, with some cultures being more likely to promote risk-taking behavior and the development of gambling problems.

There are a variety of treatments and self-help groups available to help people with gambling problems. Some of these include inpatient or residential treatment programs, a national helpline, and peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Inpatient or residential treatment programs provide round-the-clock support and are designed for people with severe gambling problems. Other options include individual therapy, group or family counseling, marriage and career counseling and credit and debt management services. A therapist can help identify and address any mood disorders that may be contributing to or made worse by compulsive gambling, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. An experienced therapist can also offer tools to overcome gambling urges and develop healthy coping skills.