Pathological Gambling

Imagine yourself in a twinkly casino, sipping a free cocktail, and trying your hand at the slots or tables. Seventy-five percent of people gamble responsibly, finding the game entertaining and a welcome diversion to a busy life. But 20 percent overindulge and incur debts that can impair their ability to support their families — and even bankrupt them. They also lose a sense of control and find themselves thinking about gambling more often than they think about work, relationships, or other activities that bring them enjoyment.

Those with problem gambling may also have thoughts of suicide or attempting suicide. These individuals need treatment and should not be left alone. Pathological gambling is a mental illness that affects an individual’s mood, thought process, and behavior and is characterized by increased risk-taking, impaired judgment, and impulsivity. A person with this disorder is unable to stop gambling despite the negative consequences.

The most common types of gambling are sports betting, horse racing, video games, lottery, scratch-off tickets, and card games. Many of these games are played in casinos, but others can be found at local bars and restaurants. These include bingo, dead pool, pull-tab games, and Mahjong.

A person can be addicted to gambling for a variety of reasons, including socialization, entertainment, and the prospect of winning money. Some people have a genetic predisposition to become addicted, but most develop a gambling addiction after experiencing an adverse event that triggers a craving. For example, a family member might be divorced or die, which can trigger an urge to gamble in order to relieve stress. Other factors that can lead to a gambling addiction are the availability of gambling and peer pressure.

While some people do gamble for financial gains, most do it for fun. However, the excitement and rush of gambling can be addictive, so it’s important to know your limits. Start by setting a fixed amount of money you’re willing to lose, and don’t chase your losses. Thinking you’re due for a win will only make you lose more money in the long run.

Gambling impacts have been observed at the personal, interpersonal, and community/society levels. Those at the personal level are influenced by the gambler, while those at the interpersonal level are impacted by the person’s family and friends. Finally, those at the community/society level include those who benefit from the increase in gambling revenues and those who suffer as a result of problem gambling.

Despite the similarities between pathological gambling and substance abuse, it has not yet been classified as a disease in DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 1980, 1987). Research in this area faces several challenges. First, it is important to determine whether the symptoms of this disorder are similar to those of substance abuse and what causes them. Additionally, it is necessary to recognize that there are significant differences between these conditions and that a classification of pathological gambling as a disorder would require substantial additional research. Until this occurs, it will be difficult to develop effective strategies for prevention and treatment.