Gambling and Pathological Gambling Disorders


Gambling is the staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident. Skill can reduce the randomness of gambling, but it cannot eliminate it; for example, knowledge of playing strategies may increase one’s chances of winning in certain card games, or an understanding of horses and jockeys can improve predictions of probable outcomes in horse races. It is distinguished from bona fide business transactions, contracts valid under the law of contract (such as contracts of indemnity or guaranty), and insurance.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, some of which might be influenced by their psychological state, such as depression or anxiety. Others might gamble to escape from reality, or for social or entertainment purposes. The majority of people who gamble do so for money, and if they win, they will receive a financial reward.

For some people, however, gambling can become problematic. Those who have a pathological gambling disorder (PG) exhibit recurrent, maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause significant distress or impairment. PG can lead to problems in work, relationships, and health.

A person with a problem with gambling might start to lie, hide evidence of their gambling, or spend more and more time at it. They might also start to feel guilt or shame about their gambling, which can exacerbate the problem. It is important to recognise these signs and to seek help.

There are a number of ways to get help and support for a gambling problem, including counselling, peer support groups, and medication. Counselling can help someone to understand their gambling problems, consider options and solve them. Peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous can provide a safe and supportive environment for those struggling with a gambling disorder. Medications can be used to treat co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, and may help people to relax and focus their attention.

Many people find it difficult to admit that they have a problem with gambling, especially if they have lost large amounts of money and have strained or broken relationships as a result. It is important to remember that it takes a lot of strength and courage to own up to gambling addiction, even when it has caused such serious consequences.

The best way to prevent a loved one from developing a gambling addiction is to make sure that they only gamble with money that they can afford to lose, and to set limits on how long and how much they will play. Avoid chasing losses by thinking that you will be lucky again soon, which is known as the “gambler’s fallacy”. Instead, try to stop as soon as you start feeling like you are losing control. It is also a good idea to only gamble with money that you have set aside for entertainment, and never use your rent or phone bills as a source of funds.