Understanding Gambling As an Addiction

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event whose outcome is determined by chance, with instances of skill discounted. It requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. Gambling can be done for many reasons, including social, recreational, and financial. For example, people may bet on sports or horse races to win money, or they might place bets in order to enjoy thinking about what they could do with a large sum of money. Other people gamble for entertainment purposes, such as card games, video poker, or slot machines.

Gamblers who suffer from a gambling disorder may experience a wide range of problems. These include: (1) a preoccupation with gambling; (2) difficulty in stopping or controlling gambling behavior; (3) lying to family members, friends, and therapists to conceal the extent of involvement in gambling; (4) frequent relapses; (5) failure to attend work or school; (6) jeopardizing relationships, jobs, educational opportunities, or other responsibilities; and (7) engaging in illegal activities such as forgery, fraud, theft, embezzlement, or extortion to finance gambling.

People who have a gambling disorder are also at risk of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Mood disorders can trigger and make worse compulsive gambling behavior, and they can also coexist with it. Often, these disorders require treatment along with other therapies that address problematic gambling.

The understanding of gambling as an addiction has undergone dramatic changes in recent decades. This change has been reflected in, and stimulated by, the evolution of the clinical description of pathological gambling in the different editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.

In DSM-5, the disorder has been renamed “Gambling Disorder,” and it is now in a category on behavioral addictions alongside substance abuse disorders. The change reflects research findings that support the view that people who gamble compulsively experience symptoms that are very similar to those of people who are addicted to substances.

The first step to overcoming problem gambling is admitting that you have a problem. This is not always easy, especially if you have lost a lot of money or damaged your personal relationships because of it. But it’s important to remember that other people have overcome this struggle and can help you do the same. Talk to a therapist who specializes in treating gambling disorders. You can get matched with one in just 48 hours. Click here to learn more about the world’s largest therapy service. It’s free and 100% confidential.