Gambling is the wagering of something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. The term gambling can also be applied to games of skill, such as those involving cards or dice. The act of gambling may be a form of entertainment or a way to socialize, but it can also become a problem for those who are addicted to the activity. There are several treatments available for those who suffer from gambling addiction. Some of these include family therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), both of which have been shown to be effective. Others include support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.
While it is not uncommon to hear of individuals chasing after big wins in casinos or at online gambling sites, the reality is that a large percentage of gamblers lose more than they win. Aside from the financial risks, compulsive gambling can have a number of other negative impacts on an individual’s life. These can include poor health, problems with work or relationships, and even criminal involvement. In some cases, a person’s gambling habit can also jeopardize the lives of those close to him or her.
The psychiatric community has historically viewed pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in the 1980s, the American Psychiatric Association officially moved pathological gambling into the section of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders dedicated to addictive disorders.
Behavioral treatments for pathological gambling involve techniques designed to change an individual’s response to risky situations. The goal of these treatment methods is to replace the compulsion to gamble with healthy behaviors, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. In some cases, these techniques can be combined with family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling to address the many issues that may have arisen as a result of an individual’s gambling problem.
In addition to these behavioral therapies, some individuals with gambling addictions benefit from more intensive inpatient or residential treatment programs. These treatment facilities provide round-the-clock care and support for individuals who are unable to stop gambling independently. They may also be required to agree to a strict set of rules and guidelines that they must follow to continue receiving care.
Individuals who have a gambling addiction often experience irrational beliefs about betting, such as believing that a string of losses or a near miss (for example, two out of three cherries on a slot machine) signals an imminent win. CBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that can help a person challenge these irrational beliefs and learn to resist the urge to gamble.