Gambling Disorder – What is it and How Can it Be Treated?


Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value, such as money or possessions, for the chance to win a prize. This can happen in places like casinos, racetracks and even at home through games like scratchcards or video poker. While some people gamble for fun, others may develop a gambling problem that leads to serious consequences. If you think you have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help. Many treatment options are available, including therapy and medication.

Gambling involves putting money on an event with a random outcome, such as a football match or scratchcard game. The amount of money you stand to gain if you are correct can be calculated using the odds. These odds are based on probability and the ratio of risks to rewards. They are not necessarily easy to understand, so some people struggle with making decisions about whether or not to gamble.

A person is considered to have a gambling disorder if they have one or more of the following characteristics: (1) regularly loses control when playing a game of chance; (2) lies to family members, therapists or employers about their involvement in gambling; (3) frequently spends more than they can afford to lose; (4) has an intense desire to win and will not rest until they do; (5) is preoccupied by thoughts about gambling; and (6) has a high level of comorbidity with other disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

The underlying factors that lead to a gambling disorder are not well understood. However, studies show that gambling disorder tends to run in families and can start during adolescence or later in adulthood. It can also be triggered by a major life change, such as the death of a loved one or divorce.

While some people can stop gambling on their own, most require professional help to do so. There are several types of therapists who specialize in treating gambling disorder, and some offer group therapy and family therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you how to recognize unhealthy gambling behaviors and change them. It can also help you learn how to cope with urges and solve financial, career, and relationship problems caused by your gambling behavior.

Some experts believe that the most effective approach to treating gambling disorder is through a combination of medications and therapy. However, the effectiveness of these approaches varies from person to person. In addition to traditional therapies, some patients may benefit from complementary treatments such as family therapy and psychodynamic therapy.

Longitudinal research on gambling is rare due to the difficulty of conducting a study over a long period of time. This is because of the logistical and funding challenges involved with a multiyear commitment to follow a group of individuals for several years. Nonetheless, the importance of longitudinal data in understanding and evaluating gambling disorders is recognized. Such studies are crucial in the development of improved treatment strategies.