Gambling is the risking of money or anything else of value to predict the outcome of a game involving chance, such as scratchcards, fruit machines, horse racing, lotteries and sports events. It is a worldwide recreational activity and a major commercial industry. It can also be conducted with materials that have a monetary value but are not cash (such as marbles in a marbles game or collectable trading cards in games such as Magic: The Gathering). While some gamblers are addicted to gambling, many people enjoy the occasional flutter on the lottery or a visit to the casino.
There are many reasons why gambling can become problematic and lead to addiction. Some of the most common include:
In addition to these behavioral factors, there are a number of psychological and environmental factors that can contribute to pathological gambling (PG). Psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety may coexist with PG, and certain family traits – such as a history of trauma – increase the risk of developing a PG.
While some people can manage their gambling problems on their own, others require help from a trained professional. Counseling can help individuals explore the underlying issues that contribute to their gambling behavior, consider options and solve problems. There are several types of counseling that have been shown to be effective, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, family therapy and group therapy. Medications may also be used, although there are no FDA-approved drugs for treating gambling disorder.
Efforts to understand the nature of a gambling problem are aided by the use of longitudinal data. These data allow researchers to identify and track factors that influence the likelihood of a person becoming involved in a gambling behavior, as well as those who develop more serious problems. This information can be used to guide interventions that reduce gambling participation and mitigate the development of a PG diagnosis.
To prevent a gambling problem from occurring, start by establishing a budget for entertainment and only gamble with the amount of money you can afford to lose. Avoid chasing your losses, as this will only result in more and bigger losses. You should also never try to make money from gambling; it is not a good way to earn money. Instead, treat it like an expense, just like food or clothes. Finally, set money and time limits before you begin gambling and never use your phone or rent budget to gamble with. If you are struggling with a gambling problem, talk to a trusted friend or seek out a support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Also, try to get physical activity, as exercise has been shown to help people control their urges. You can also reach out to a national helpline or speak with your doctor. If you have a loved one who is struggling with gambling, consider seeking family and community support through a self-help program for families of gamblers, such as Gam-Anon.