Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. A prize, or “common fund” is awarded if the gambler wins. Gambling does not include bona fide business transactions or contracts valid under law, including sales at a future date of securities or commodities and contracts of insurance (except life, health, or accident).
In addition to being a popular recreational activity, gambling has also become a major industry, with an estimated global total of $3.2 trillion in annual revenues. Gambling is legal in most countries, and its popularity has led to the development of many different types of gambling games and activities. Some of these games are regulated by government agencies, and the proceeds from some of them may be taxed.
While some people enjoy the excitement and thrill of gambling, others find it to be a serious addiction that interferes with their work, home, and social relationships. People who have a gambling disorder have difficulty controlling their urges to gamble, and they often feel the need to increase their stakes or frequency of play in order to experience the same level of satisfaction that they used to get from gambling. This behavior can have devastating consequences on a person’s family and career, and it is important to seek help when it is needed.
Treatment for gambling disorders is largely behavioral in nature. The goal of treatment is to reduce or eliminate problematic gambling behaviors, and to regain control over one’s finances, lifestyle, and personal relationships. Treatment may involve individual and family counseling, cognitive therapy, and other behavioral techniques. Some patients may benefit from psychiatric medications, especially those that treat mood disorders like depression or anxiety, which are often associated with compulsive gambling.
Behavioral treatments for pathological gambling are based on the theory that the etiology of problem gambling is complex and requires an understanding of the underlying biological, psychological, and social processes. While research and clinical findings have contributed to changes in the understanding of gambling disorders, the etiology remains poorly understood. The various theories that have been proposed to explain why some individuals are prone to gambling problems include recreational interest, diminished mathematical skills, poor judgment, psychosocial factors, and mental illness.
It is important to seek help when gambling becomes a problem, and it is often helpful to participate in group support for other compulsive gamblers. For example, the support group Gam-Anon offers help for compulsive gamblers and their families, and it is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to support groups, individual and family therapy can help people deal with the effects of gambling addiction on their relationships and lives. It is also important to set financial and time limits for gambling, and not to chase losses. It is often difficult to recognise that a gambling problem has occurred, and it is common for people who have a gambling disorder to hide their activity from their families. For these reasons, it is recommended that spouses, children, and friends seek out counseling to help them understand the problem.