Gambling is the staking of something of value (money or other valuables) on an event with an uncertain outcome, where the chances of winning are not known. This does not include bona fide business transactions such as the purchase or sale of securities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty, or life, health or accidental insurance.
Whether it is a wager on sporting events, scratch cards, slot machines, roulette, poker, or betting on horse races, a gambling problem can strain personal relationships, interfere with work and school, cause financial disaster, and even lead to criminal activity such as stealing money to gamble. In addition, a person with a gambling problem can develop depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, and can be triggered or made worse by compulsive gambling.
It is possible to overcome a gambling addiction with the help of therapy, and recovery can be rapid. A therapist can help a person understand the reasons behind their gambling and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. Therapists can also teach strategies for managing time, stress, and boredom that do not involve gambling.
Generally, the more a person is involved in gambling, the harder it is to stop. This is because a person can get caught up in the anticipation of the next big win, or fantasize about what they could do with the money if they won. In addition, people with a gambling disorder can become obsessed with gambling and lose control over their lives. Several clinical criteria have been developed to diagnose a gambling disorder, including damage or disruption to one’s life or career, preoccupation with gambling, tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence.
There is much debate about the validity of a psychiatric diagnosis for pathological gambling (PG), as many different theories have been offered. Historically, researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians, and public policy makers have all framed PG questions differently, depending on their disciplinary training, experience, and special interests. These diverse viewpoints have often resulted in competing and inconsistent terminology.
Longitudinal studies on a person’s gambling behavior are difficult to perform because of the enormous investment required, problems with maintaining research team continuity over a long period, and difficulties with collecting reliable data about a large number of individuals over an extended time span. However, these studies are essential for understanding how a person’s gambling behavior changes with age and over time.
The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that there is a problem. This can be a hard step, especially for someone who has lost a lot of money and strained or broken family relationships because of their gambling habits. But it is important to realize that it is not too late to recover and rebuild your life. Many people who have a gambling disorder have recovered and gone on to live healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. The key is to seek professional help as soon as you can.