Gambling Disorder

Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event involving chance, with the intent of winning something else of value. The terms “gambling” and “gambling disorder” are used to describe the behavior, and in particular its severe form, characterized by an intense preoccupation with gambling, a compulsion to gamble, and problems related to the consequences of the compulsion to gamble. The compulsion to gamble can also affect a person’s relationships, employment, and other aspects of daily life.

In the United States, more than 2.5 million adults (1%) would be diagnosed with a serious gambling problem. Several million more may have mild to moderate gambling problems. Gambling is a common activity, and there are many ways that people engage in it. For example, a person may go to a casino and play slot machines, or place a bet on a sports team with a bookie. Gambling can also occur through the use of altered gambling equipment such as shaved or loaded dice, mirror rings, electronic sensors, and marked cards; gambling paraphernalia; and any record, ticket, certificate, bill, slip, token, writing, scratch sheet, coin, chip, or other article used for carrying on bookmaking, wagering pools, lotteries, numbers, policy, or similar games.

There are a number of different treatments for gambling disorders, and some types of psychotherapy work better than others. The most effective treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and group therapy. Some patients require inpatient or residential treatment for gambling disorder, which can be provided at local or state-run facilities.

People who are concerned about a loved one’s gambling should talk to him or her and learn more about the disorder. It can be helpful to discuss the family history of gambling, as it often runs in families and can be triggered by trauma or adversity. It’s also important to talk about how the disorder has impacted the family financially, and to develop a plan for managing money.

People with gambling disorder can often find a variety of healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. In addition, people who have trouble controlling their gambling can benefit from treating underlying mood disorders like depression, stress, or anxiety, which may trigger or be made worse by compulsive gambling behaviors. Finally, a person who has a gambling problem can seek help from self-help groups for individuals with the disorder, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Family, marriage, career, and credit counseling can also be beneficial for helping a person with a gambling disorder repair his or her relationships and finances. Lastly, it’s important to recognize that even when someone has been successful in stopping gambling, relapses are possible. The key is to keep trying and not give up. If a relapse does occur, it’s critical to reach out for support. This can be done by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group for individuals with the disorder such as Gam-Anon, or getting professional help.