Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on the horses, playing video poker or the pokies, gambling involves risking something of value (typically money) in an attempt to win a prize. It is possible to increase the odds of winning by playing smartly and following strategies, but the likelihood of losing is always present.
Gambling is generally considered an addiction when it interferes with a person’s daily functioning. Those who suffer from gambling disorder experience problems with their work, relationships, family and finances. In addition, they often have distorted thinking that can distort their ability to make sound decisions.
There are several types of psychotherapy that can help people with gambling disorder. These treatments involve talking with a trained mental health professional who can teach you healthy ways to cope with your emotions and change unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors. There are also a number of support groups for problem gamblers, including Gamblers Anonymous and other 12-step programs modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the United States, there are no medications that treat gambling disorder, although there are some drugs that can ease symptoms of other mental disorders. Treatment is usually based on psychotherapy and other behavioral therapy. Some people with serious problems with gambling are referred to as “compulsive gamblers,” and may be placed in special hospital programs that provide intensive and residential treatment for these patients.
The DSM-5 revised its diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder, which now includes four different types of gambling disorder. This update reflects research findings that show that gambling disorder is similar to substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and physiology.
Psychiatric researchers have found that there are many reasons why people might gamble, such as for social or entertainment purposes, for financial rewards, to think about what they would do with a large sum of money, and/or to avoid boredom. In general, people who gamble for social or entertainment reasons are less likely to become addicted.
To prevent a gambling problem, only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Set money and time limits, and stick to them. Never gamble while you’re depressed or upset. Avoid chasing losses, because chances are that the more you try to win back your lost money, the more you will lose. Also, don’t drink too much at the casino. It’s hard to concentrate and you’re more likely to make bad choices. It’s also important to balance gambling with other activities, such as friends and family, hobbies, work or school.