Gambling involves wagering something of value, such as money or property, on an uncertain event with the intent of winning something else of value. It is an activity with considerable social and personal consequences. There are several forms of gambling, including betting on sports events, horse races, and casino games such as poker and blackjack. People also gamble with materials that have a value but do not represent money, such as marbles in a game of marbles, or collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Pogs.
People with pathological gambling (PG) experience persistent, recurrent and maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause serious distress or problems in various areas of their lives. Typically, their problems with gambling start in adolescence or young adulthood and persist for years. Males and females develop PG at similar rates, but women report developing their PG at a faster rate than men and reporting more problems with nonstrategic, face-to-face forms of gambling, such as slot machines.
The psychological causes of gambling problems are complex. It is likely that a combination of factors contributes to the development of problem gambling. These include genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and behavioural patterns. In addition, people who engage in risky behaviours such as gambling often have a history of traumatic or stressful life experiences. This can trigger a series of stress-related responses, such as impulsive and compulsive behaviours, which may lead to addictive gambling.
It is important for family members of someone with a gambling problem to recognise that they can become dangerously involved. It can be hard to know if a loved one has a problem, and they might hide evidence of their gambling from you or try to convince you that their behaviour is normal.
If you think a loved one has a gambling problem, it is important to seek help from a professional. There are a variety of treatments available, which can be combined to treat the specific aspects of the person’s gambling problem. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, is a useful treatment for a gambling addiction, as it helps to challenge irrational beliefs and behaviours, such as the belief that certain rituals increase luck or that it is possible to win back losses by gambling more.
Other therapies are used to address the underlying issues behind the gambling disorder, such as psychodynamic therapy, which examines unconscious processes that can influence a person’s actions. Group therapy is also a helpful tool for individuals with this condition, as it can provide support and motivation to stop gambling. It can also help individuals reconnect with friends and family, which is a critical part of recovery from this condition. Finally, a number of organisations offer support and assistance for those with gambling disorders, such as GamCare and StepChange. These can be particularly helpful for people struggling with financial difficulties, as they offer free, confidential debt advice.