Pathological Gambling


Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the intent of winning money. The behavior can be as simple as betting on a scratchcard or more complex such as playing blackjack or roulette. The behavior can also take place online and in social contexts, such as placing a bet with friends.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health disorder that causes a person to engage in maladaptive patterns of behavior related to gambling. It typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood, and it usually develops into a problem several years after the person starts gambling. PG is most common in men, and it tends to affect more strategic, face-to-face forms of gambling than nonstrategic forms. The disorder has a high rate of comorbidity with substance abuse disorders, and it is often associated with depression.

People with a PG disorder are preoccupied by thoughts about gambling (e.g., reliving past gambling experiences, planning or handicapping future ventures, thinking about ways to get money to gamble). They are often irritable, depressed, anxious, guilty, or helpless. They may lie about their involvement in gambling or about how much money they have lost. They might even be unable to stop gambling or to control their spending despite the harm it is causing them and others.

Taking steps to overcome a gambling problem takes strength and courage, especially if it has led to financial hardship or strained relationships. But it is possible to break the habit, and many people have done so successfully. Talking about the harm caused by gambling with a trusted friend or family member who does not judge you can be helpful. It is also important to reduce financial risk factors by not using credit cards or gambling with borrowed money. And find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Posted in: Gambling