Gambling involves risking something of value (typically money) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and with the intention of winning a prize. The term gambling does not apply to bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.
Many people have gambled at some point in their lives. In general, the majority of people who gamble do so with small amounts for recreational purposes. However, for some, gambling becomes an addiction. People who are addicted to gambling can experience problems such as debt, family distress and even depression. The first step towards getting help for a gambling problem is admitting that there is a problem. Then, a person can seek treatment from a professional.
The term disordered gambling encompasses a range of behaviors, from those that place individuals at increased risk for developing more serious problems to those that would meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling (PG). Pathological gamblers are likely to begin the behavior in their adolescence or early adulthood and continue it throughout their lives. They are more likely to develop problems with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as poker and blackjack, than with nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as bingo or slot machines.
Several treatments have been developed to treat pathological gambling, but with varying degrees of success. These treatments vary in their underlying assumptions about the causes and maintenance of pathological gambling behavior. Moreover, these treatments often fail to take into account the complex interplay of variables that contribute to the development and maintenance of gambling disorders.
A therapist can help a person understand how the behavior of gambling affects their relationship with others. They can also teach coping skills and help the person set appropriate boundaries. For example, a therapist can help a person limit the amount of time they spend gambling. In addition, they can help a person find other ways to have fun that do not involve betting money.
When dealing with a loved one who is addicted to gambling, it can be difficult to avoid falling into the trap of rationalizing their requests for “just this one last time.” Reaching out for support can help family members realize that they are not alone and that many other families have struggled with this issue. In addition to family therapy, there are specific counseling services that can be helpful for those with gambling addictions, including marriage, career and credit counseling.
Ultimately, the best way to combat a gambling addiction is to seek help. This can be done through counseling or support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a similar format to Alcoholics Anonymous. If the person has a financial dependency on the gambling, it may be necessary to take over management of their finances or at least set boundaries so that they are not able to access the funds easily.