Gambling involves placing money or something of value on an event whose outcome depends on chance, such as a football game, lottery, or scratchcard. The winning prize is usually money, but it could be other items of value or even real estate. People may gamble for entertainment, to make a profit, or simply out of curiosity. However, gambling can become a serious problem for some people. In this article, we’ll take a look at what gambling is, how it works, the risks involved, and some useful tips for safer gambling.
The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to ancient China, where tiles were found that appear to have been used to play a rudimentary form of a lottery-type game. In more modern times, the practice has spread around the world and is now an extremely popular pastime. However, many people have trouble controlling their gambling habits and end up losing more than they win. This can have devastating consequences, both financially and emotionally.
In the past, psychiatrists have generally viewed pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). But in a landmark decision, the American Psychiatric Association moved gambling disorder into the Addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the DSM-5, which was published this year. This move reflects a new understanding of the biology of addiction and has changed the way psychiatrists help people with this condition.
A variety of treatments are available for those struggling with a gambling addiction. Counseling is a common option, and it can help people understand their problem, think about options, and solve problems. Medications are also sometimes helpful, but they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat gambling disorders. They can, however, be used to treat co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.
Support from family and friends can be crucial to someone’s recovery from a gambling addiction, and they can offer encouragement to keep trying. Peer support groups are also an important resource, and some of them are based on 12-step models, like the one for Alcoholics Anonymous. Some of these groups also connect members with sponsors who are former gamblers and have experience staying free from the behavior. Regardless of which treatment option you choose, the first step is to admit that you have a gambling problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face this truth, particularly if it has cost you money or strained or broken relationships. But this recognition is the key to finding recovery.