Gambling As a Dangerous Addiction
Gambling is a popular pastime that can be fun and exciting, but it is also a dangerous addiction. Many people gamble compulsively and lose control of their finances, relationships, and health. Some even turn to crime to fund their gambling habits. If you are suffering from a gambling problem, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to stop the cycle of debt and reclaim your life.
A form of speculative risk-taking, gambling is the wagering of something of value, such as money, property, or services, on an uncertain event with a specific outcome that may be based in part on chance and in part on skill. Although it is considered to be a recreational activity, it has been around for thousands of years and is a worldwide commercial industry. It can be conducted with real or symbolic money, as well as objects of a similar value, such as marbles or collectible games like Magic: The Gathering. It can be done online or in a physical setting, such as a casino or racetrack.
In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a type of impulse control disorder, a category that also includes such disorders as kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in an attempt to increase credibility and encourage screening for problem gamblers, the American Psychiatric Association recently moved pathological gambling into the Addictive Disorders chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses.
It is often hard to recognize gambling as a problem, especially when it occurs in the context of a social activity or in a place where it is legal. The social aspects of gambling can make it difficult to break the habit, even when the gambler is aware that his or her behavior is damaging to the family or the community. In addition, the gambling habit can be fueled by underlying mood disorders such as depression, stress, or substance abuse, which may contribute to or be made worse by compulsive gambling.
Several different treatments are available for those with gambling problems. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help people learn to change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, including rationalizations and false beliefs. It can also teach people how to cope with urges to gamble and to solve financial, career, and relationship problems that are caused or made worse by gambling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is particularly effective for people with gambling problems and can be combined with family therapy or marriage counseling, depending on the individual’s needs.
If you have a friend or loved one with a gambling problem, reach out to him or her for support. It is helpful to know that you are not alone and that others have successfully overcome gambling problems. You can also seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that contribute to or are exacerbated by gambling, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Treatment for these conditions may include medication and lifestyle changes.