Pathological Gambling

Gambling is an activity in which you stake something of value (such as money or property) on a game of chance with the potential to win a larger prize. Gambling takes place in many places, including casinos, racetracks, lotteries, card games, sports events, and even on the Internet. It is considered a recreational activity, and can be enjoyable and profitable if done responsibly. However, gambling can also be addictive and lead to serious problems for some people.

While the exact causes of pathological gambling are not fully understood, it is believed to be a complex disorder that requires professional help. It is often accompanied by coexisting disorders such as substance abuse or mental illness. It is also frequently characterized by negative consequences such as jeopardized relationships, lost job or career opportunities, and financial problems. In addition, pathological gamblers are likely to engage in illegal activities to finance their habit.

Unlike many other types of recreation, which require only a minimal amount of skill or intelligence, gambling is based on the unpredictable outcomes of a random event, making it highly addictive and risky. Whether in the form of lottery tickets, cards, dice, slots machines, scratch-off tickets, or even tossing a coin in the air, gambling is a popular pastime with an impressive history. Evidence of the earliest forms of gambling date back to ancient China, where tiles were unearthed that appeared to be used in a rudimentary game of chance.

Research has indicated that gambling is addictive in both adults and adolescents. Adolescents may be more prone to pathological gambling than adults, as they are more likely to have significant risk factors such as low self-esteem, poor peer influence, and an inability to regulate emotions and behaviors. Adolescents who have a gambling problem are more likely to miss work or school in order to gamble, and may lie to family members or therapists about their gambling habits.

Although there is no specific diagnostic test for gambling disorder, several assessments have been developed to identify individuals at risk of developing a problem. These include the Gambling Symptom Inventory and the Preoccupation with Gambling Scale, which are administered via interviews or questionnaires. A new instrument designed specifically for adolescents has recently been published, and is expected to be useful in identifying this group at risk for gambling disorder.

Those struggling with compulsive gambling should seek help through counselling, which can provide education about the nature of the disorder and teach skills for dealing with urges and coping with negative feelings and thoughts. Inpatient and residential treatment and rehab programs are also available for those whose addiction is severe and who cannot function without round-the-clock support. Other helpful strategies include strengthening support networks, finding healthy ways to spend time, and limiting access to credit cards and online betting websites. In addition, therapists can assist with marriage, career, and debt counseling, which can help individuals resolve issues caused by their gambling behavior and lay the groundwork for recovery.