Gambling Addiction


Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves risk and chance. People gamble for a variety of reasons, such as the adrenaline rush from winning, the opportunity to socialise or escape their worries and stress. However, for some people gambling can become a problem and impact their mental health.

In a private setting, gambling can take place between family and friends in a board or card game, such as poker, spades or bridge, or with dice or other material of value that is not money, such as collectible games like Pogs or Magic: The Gathering. Many individuals also make bets on the outcome of events such as football games or horse races with their friends. These bets are informal, small in scale and intended for friendly competition. In a public or commercial setting, gambling includes betting on games of chance such as slot machines, bingo and horse racing. People also wager money or items of value on the results of a lottery or other games of chance, such as dice games or roulette. These types of gambling activities are often regulated by state law.

Until recently, the psychiatric community largely viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. The psychiatric community considered it to be part of a group of impulse-control disorders that included kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). In May, the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling from the impulse-control disorder category to the addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The move was significant because it indicates that there is increasing consensus within the psychiatric community that pathological gambling meets the criteria for an addiction, similar to substance abuse. In addition, the decision reflects new scientific understandings of how addiction works.

There are several factors that contribute to the development of a gambling addiction. These include the expectation to replicate an early big win, a poor understanding of random events, the use of escape coping and coexisting depression. It is important to identify these factors in order to help someone who has a gambling addiction seek treatment and support.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling behaviour, seek advice from your GP or a specialist treatment service. You can also access self-help tips and support groups.

Avoid high-risk situations, such as using credit cards, spending more than you can afford to lose and relying on others for funds. Find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercise, spending time with non-gambling friends or practicing relaxation techniques.

It is common for problem gamblers to turn to other drugs or substances in an attempt to self-medicate their symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and boredom. These substances can be extremely dangerous and lead to further problems, including family conflicts and financial difficulties. Seek help if you or a family member is addicted to gambling and has additional symptoms such as denial, lying or refusing to recognise the problem. Seek treatment before it gets worse.

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