Gambling is the act of placing something of value at risk, typically money, on an event with an element of chance. It can include putting money on sports, horse races, bingo, lottery tickets, poker, dice, slot machines, and many other games. Most people who gamble do not develop a gambling disorder, and some even enjoy the thrill of winning. But a small percentage of those who start to lose control and find that their gambling is causing them harm, may develop a pathological gambling (PG) disorder.
A person who is a problem gambler will often display several symptoms. Among them are: (1) a loss of control over gambling; (2) lying to family members, friends or therapists in order to hide the extent of involvement with gambling; (3) a compulsion to gamble even when it causes financial problems; and (4) an unwillingness to stop or cut back on gambling. PG is most likely to occur in those with lower incomes who have more to gain with a big win, and it usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. PG tends to run in families, and studies of identical twins have shown a genetic link.
Counselling can help people understand the underlying issues that cause gambling to become out of control and to think through their options. There are no FDA-approved medications to treat a gambling disorder, but counselling can be helpful along with psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is important for people to have other activities to keep them entertained and not to allow gambling to take up all their time. It is also worth making a rule to only gamble with disposable income and not money that needs to be saved or used for essentials, such as food or rent.