Pathological Gambling


Gambling involves placing a bet or stake on an event or game with the aim of winning something of value. The event or game can be as simple as a lottery ticket, a slot machine, a horse race, or a casino game such as blackjack, roulette, and poker. The amount of money won can range from a small prize to a life-changing jackpot. Gambling can be a fun and social activity for some people, but for others, it can become an obsession that causes personal and financial problems.

Those who suffer from pathological gambling (PG) exhibit maladaptive patterns of behavior that involve a preoccupation with gambling, loss of control, and impaired functioning in daily activities. PG often begins in adolescence or young adulthood and persists into adulthood. Women appear to develop PG at a greater rate than men and tend to begin gambling at a younger age. The onset of PG may be linked to the use of drugs and alcohol. Those who have serious PG symptoms often report that their gambling negatively impacts their relationships, family, work, and other facets of their lives.

The underlying cause of PG is an inability to control impulses. The impulsive urge to gamble is an expression of a person’s need for excitement and gratification. The need to win is a secondary desire and is often fueled by fantasies of wealth, power, or fame. In addition, a person with a pathological gambling disorder often becomes restless and irritable if they try to stop or reduce their gambling.

People with a gambling problem are at risk of losing their homes, jobs, and families, and often have significant debts. They are often obsessed with gambling and are at high risk of committing illegal acts such as forgery, embezzlement, theft, and fraud to fund their habit. Those with a gambling disorder also frequently lie to their family members, friends, and therapists about their gambling activity. They may even jeopardize their own health by attempting to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to deal with their compulsion.

There are many ways to improve your ability to control your gambling and to overcome a gambling addiction. Some of these include talking about your gambling with someone you trust, such as a friend or professional counsellor; reducing financial risk factors by keeping cash in safe places; not visiting casinos, TABs and other gambling venues; and filling the gap in your life that gambling used to occupy with new activities. You can also learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings such as loneliness, boredom, stress, and depression. These strategies can help you maintain your recovery from a gambling addiction and prevent relapse. Family therapy and marital, career, and credit counseling are also beneficial for those with gambling problems. These therapies can help you address the specific problems that gambling has created in your life and lay the foundation for rebuilding damaged relationships and reestablishing healthy finances. Gambling addiction is not always easy to recover from, but it can be done.