Gambling Disorders – What is Compulsive Gambling?


Gambling is any game or activity in which something of value is staked on a random event with the hope of winning money or other valuable prizes. It may be done at casinos, racetracks, online, or anywhere else where people can bet on games of chance.

For many, gambling is a fun and entertaining pastime. But for others, it can become an obsession that leads to serious financial and mental health problems. This is known as compulsive gambling and can be hard to overcome. If you are concerned about your or someone’s gambling habits, there are a number of ways to get help and support.

Some people gamble for the adrenaline rush, to socialise or to escape from stress and anxiety. However, if you find yourself gambling more than you can afford to lose or using it as an excuse to avoid dealing with debt problems, then this could be a sign that you have a problem. You should seek treatment and try self-help tips.

While there are no definitive criteria for a gambling disorder, the American Psychiatric Association lists pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder. This change in understanding of gambling-related difficulties is comparable to the shift that occurred in our understanding of alcoholism.

Research scientists, psychiatrists, other treatment care clinicians and public policy makers all frame their considerations of gambling problems from different paradigms or world views. This variety of perspective makes it difficult to reach an agreed-upon nomenclature.

Unlike some other forms of addiction, gambling is often portrayed as a choice that can be controlled or prevented. This societal view is misleading for a number of reasons. First, it underestimates the power of the impulsive nature of gambling and other forms of addiction. Secondly, it fails to acknowledge that most of the negative consequences of gambling and other addictive behaviors are caused by environmental factors.

For example, some people gamble to relieve unpleasant feelings like boredom or loneliness, or after a stressful day at work or following an argument with a partner. There are healthier and more effective ways to deal with these issues, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

People also turn to gambling when they have other underlying mood disorders, such as depression, which can trigger and make worse compulsive gambling behavior. Those with a mood disorder should see a doctor for professional diagnosis and treatment, or consider talking to a debt adviser at StepChange. They can provide free and confidential advice. They can also refer you to a specialist gambling support service.