Pathological Gambling


Gambling is a form of wagering money or something else of value on the outcome of an event that is primarily determined by chance, such as a game of chance, a race or sports contest. Some examples of gambling include scratchcards, fruit machines, betting on horse races or football accumulators, and playing casino games such as blackjack or poker. It is important to note that not all gambling activities are considered to be harmful, even if they involve risk. However, if someone is preoccupied with gambling and thinks of nothing but how they will win their next bet or how to get the money for the next gamble, then they may be suffering from an addiction.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health disorder that causes a person to engage in maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior, causing distress and impairment in multiple areas of life. PG is characterized by: a preoccupation with gambling and thoughts about how to win the next bet; lying to family members, friends or therapists to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; being unable to control or stop gambling even when it causes significant distress; jeopardizing a job, education, or career opportunity because of gambling; relying on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling; and using altered gambling equipment or techniques, such as shaved dice, magnetic dice, mirror rings, or other devices.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, from the excitement of winning to the social rewards and fun of playing with friends. Studies have shown that gambling can trigger a feeling of euphoria in the brain, similar to that produced by taking drugs. Research has also shown that repeated exposure to gambling can cause lasting changes in the brain, affecting reward pathways.

In addition to the psychological effects of gambling, it can have a negative impact on families and communities. Those who struggle with a gambling disorder can receive help through specialized treatment programs or self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Those who are concerned about the gambling habits of family members or friends can contact a local counselor or visit a support group for families such as Gam-Anon.

Behavioral treatments for pathological gambling have been formulated and tested using longitudinal designs. These designs allow researchers to track the occurrence of problematic behaviors over time and identify factors that moderate or exacerbate gambling participation. This research is valuable because it can help us understand the onset and maintenance of gambling behaviors in a population. Using longitudinal data, it is also possible to compare respondent characteristics over time and across treatment conditions. This information is important in determining how to best design, implement, and evaluate behavioral treatments for pathological gambling. Ultimately, the goal is to develop effective and sustainable treatments for this disorder. This requires that we move beyond eclectic theoretic conceptualizations of pathological gambling and focus on identifying the specific conditions under which problem gambling behaviors emerge, develop, and persist.