Gambling is a risky activity in which people place something of value on the outcome of a game of chance. People gamble for many reasons. Some do it to relieve stress, socialize with friends or escape from boredom. Others do it for financial reasons or because they dream about winning a big jackpot. Regardless of their motivation, all gambling is a form of addiction because it triggers the brain’s reward system.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that lead to negative personal and family consequences. Symptoms include: -repetitive, uncontrollable, and compulsive gambling behavior; -an overwhelming urge to gamble; -an inability to control the amount of money spent on gambling; -an attempt to cover up or conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; -disruption of normal functioning caused by gambling behavior; -a need to return to gambling in order to get even after a loss (chasing losses); -an inability to stop gambling despite repeated attempts; -the use of illegal acts to finance gambling, such as forgery, fraud, embezzlement, theft, or stealing money, etc; and -loss of a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
Counseling is an effective treatment for PG, and some medications may be used to treat co-occurring conditions, such as depression or anxiety. People can also seek support from peers in recovery programs like Gamblers Anonymous. Changing one’s environment by spending time with non-gambling friends, exercising or taking up new hobbies is another helpful strategy.