Gambling Disorders


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (such as money, property, or life) on the outcome of a random event. It is a common form of entertainment and recreation for many people, but it can also be an addictive behavior. Several studies have shown that gambling can be linked to other addictions, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders.

In the United States, 2.5 million adults (1%) have a severe gambling problem in any given year. Another 5-8 million (2-3%) have mild or moderate gambling problems. Most adults who gamble do so responsibly.

While gambling is often portrayed negatively in the media, research has shown that it can have some positive effects. These benefits include socializing, skill improvement, and mental development. However, the negative effects outweigh these benefits if gambling becomes an addictive habit.

Problem gambling can have a devastating effect on relationships, work, and finances. Some people become secretive about their gambling, lying to family and friends about how much they gamble or even stealing to fund their gambling habits. Others may feel compelled to continue gambling even after they’ve lost everything, attempting to win back their losses by increasing their bets.

Humans are wired to want to feel in control, and the unpredictability of gambling can lead people to try to gain control by establishing rituals around gambling like throwing the dice in a certain way or sitting in a particular spot. Some people may also try to increase their chances of winning by acquiring lucky items like coins, dice, or bracelets. This is called a bias to expect luck.

It is important to note that while some people experience a gambling disorder, there is no scientific evidence that anyone can predict who will develop a problem. Many factors influence the likelihood of becoming a gambler or developing a gambling disorder, including genetics, environment, and personality.

While there are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorder, there are a number of treatments that can help people overcome their addiction and return to normal lives. Individual and group counseling can help people understand their gambling disorder, consider options, and solve problems. Inpatient and residential treatment and rehabilitation programs are designed for those who are severely addicted to gambling and cannot quit on their own. They usually involve a combination of group and individual therapy, medication, and education about gambling disorders. Some also offer family therapy and marital, career, and credit counseling. They can also offer a safe space for people to discuss their gambling problems with other addicts in recovery, which can be very helpful for some people.