Gambling Addiction


Gambling is when people place something of value, usually money or an item of value, on the outcome of a game that involves chance. This can include things like scratchcards, lottery games, fruit machines and even betting with friends. People often gamble because they enjoy the thrill of winning or losing. But it can have serious consequences for your mental health, physical health and relationships. It can also lead to debt, legal problems and even homelessness.

Problem gambling is when you have an urge to gamble but can’t control yourself. It can interfere with your work or study, cause stress and anxiety, damage your relationship with family and friends and make it hard to think clearly. It can also be a symptom of other mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

The DSM-5 reclassified pathological gambling as an addictive disorder, along with other substances of abuse and some impulse control disorders. This was done to raise the profile of gambling disorder and encourage screening, awareness and treatment for those who may be affected by it. Currently, around 4% of the population meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. But it is important to remember that many more people experience harm from their gambling than meet the diagnostic threshold.

Despite the high rates of problem gambling, the issue is not well understood. It is often confused with other activities that have negative consequences, such as alcohol and illicit drug use. This is partly because the term “harm” is not defined consistently across studies. It can refer to both the negative consequences of the activity and the behaviour that caused them, and is used in multiple items on some gambling screening tools (e.g., the Problem Gambling Screening Inventory).

Research in this area is still developing, but some evidence suggests that problem gambling can have significant adverse effects on a person’s life, including their ability to function at home and work, on their mental health and relationships and on their financial stability. It is also associated with other harmful behaviours, such as poor diet and exercise, smoking and substance misuse.

A key first step in treating gambling addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem. If you’re struggling to resist the urge to gamble, seek help immediately. Talking to a professional therapist can help you explore the root causes of your problem and find ways to cope. In addition, addressing any underlying mood disorders that might be contributing to your compulsive gambling can also help. Treatment options for problem gambling often include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you change unhealthy gambling thoughts and behaviors. It can also teach you coping skills for dealing with future urges, and it can address the relationship, career and credit problems caused by problem gambling. Inpatient or residential treatments are available for those with severe gambling addictions who cannot stop gambling without round-the-clock support.