Gambling involves risking something of value (like money or possessions) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The goal is to win a prize, which can be anything from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. Gambling can take many forms, from slot machines and table games like roulette or blackjack to sports betting. It can also involve buying a lottery ticket or scratchcard.
People who have a gambling disorder often have unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors related to gambling. These can lead to problems at work or home and cause strained or broken relationships. Fortunately, help is available. Counseling can help people better understand their gambling and think about ways to change it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy—which includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)—has been shown to be effective.
Some people are at increased risk for gambling addiction because of genetics, past trauma, or social inequality, which can lead to a higher prevalence in women and younger adults. Symptoms can start in adolescence or later in adulthood. They can be difficult to recognize and treat, especially when they occur alongside other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
While some people can overcome a gambling addiction on their own, most need help from family and friends or treatment programs. Some of these include self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, and inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs.