Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (typically money) on an event with a chance of winning a prize. It can take many forms, such as lotteries, poker, blackjack, horse racing, sports betting and pokies. Some of these activities are illegal in some places.

Problem gambling is a complex disorder that affects both people and their families. It can have serious consequences for relationships, careers and finances. It can also cause emotional distress and even depression. It is important to recognize a gambling problem and seek help.

The good news is that there are treatment options available. A therapist can help you develop healthy coping skills to manage your gambling behavior. There are also group therapy programs, such as Gamblers Anonymous, that can offer support and encouragement. It is also a good idea to address any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to your gambling problem.

People who have a gambling disorder are prone to compulsive behaviors that make them gamble in spite of negative consequences. This can include lying to family members and therapists to conceal the extent of their involvement in gambling; using credit cards or loans to fund gambling activities; and making large bets with the hope of recovering lost funds (chasing losses).

A comorbidity between alcohol and other drug use and pathological gambling has been observed. This is because both substances and gambling affect the reward system in the brain, leading to a heightened risk-taking and impulsive behavior. In addition, research has shown that individuals who have a genetic predisposition for thrill-seeking behaviors are more likely to develop a gambling disorder.

Gambling is a major source of revenue for many cities and states. This income is often used to fund public services, and help people struggling with financial hardship. However, it is important to note that problem gambling can lead to a wide range of social problems, including domestic violence and child abuse.

The American Psychiatric Association has recently moved pathological gambling into the category of behavioral addictions, joining impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). The move reflects research that shows that these types of disorders are comparable to substance-related disorders in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and physiology. The upcoming DSM-5 will further clarify the classification of pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder with similarities to other comorbid disorders, such as bipolar disorder and bulimia nervosa. This will allow clinicians to better understand and treat the underlying conditions that contribute to gambling disorder. In addition, it will provide a foundation for more targeted research in the future. These studies will include the use of longitudinal designs to identify and measure key factors in the development, maintenance and progression of gambling disorder. This will allow for more precise and cost-effective intervention strategies. In the meantime, the National Council on Problem Gambling recommends that you set limits on how much time and money you spend on gambling. It is also a good idea to get family and marriage counseling, as well as credit and budgeting assistance.