Gambling is a form of chance that involves wagering something of value, often money, on an event whose outcome is unknown. It is an activity that can be based on anything from a sporting event to a board game. While it is sometimes seen as a harmless pastime, gambling can also be dangerous and lead to addiction. Those who are addicted to gambling may find it hard to stop and can lose control of their finances, relationships, and career. A variety of treatment options are available for people who are struggling with gambling addiction.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. PG can have significant negative effects on individuals’ lives, work and health, with some studies suggesting that it is more common than previously thought. The prevalence of PG appears to vary across gender, age and type of gambling behavior. It is generally accepted that PG tends to develop in adolescence or early adulthood and, as such, a significant percentage of PG patients are adolescents. It is reported that males begin exhibiting PG symptoms at a higher rate and that they are more likely to have problems with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as poker, while females are more likely to have problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.
Although there are many different ways to gamble, most involve placing a bet on an event that is unpredictable. This can be done with either money or something else of value, such as items of personal significance or collectibles. The act of gambling is considered a risky behaviour because there is no guarantee that the bet will result in a positive outcome.
A definition of harm has been incorporated into the new DSM-5, which distinguishes it from related issues such as categorisation of behaviour, clinical diagnosis and risk factors. It defines harm as a consequence or outcome of gambling that affects the person who gambles, their affected others and their community, reflecting the social model of health.
The first step in reducing the harmful impact of gambling is to recognise it as an addiction. Counselling can help people understand their problem and consider the wider impact that it is having on their lives. It can also help them to repair their relationships and finances.
Some types of therapy include family therapy and marriage counselling, which can be beneficial for couples impacted by a gambling problem. There are also support groups for those who suffer from a gambling disorder, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. A sponsor is a person who has successfully quit gambling and can offer advice and encouragement. Other therapies can include cognitive behavioural therapy, which addresses thinking errors associated with gambling, and a mindfulness-based approach. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger gambling. In addition, hypnotherapy can be used to help a person relax before gambling.