Mental Health and Gambling

Gambling involves placing something of value (such as money) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. Whether it’s betting on a team to win a game, buying lottery or scratchcard tickets, playing online casinos or putting a bet on horse races, gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with the hope of winning a prize. In addition to the risk of losing money, gambling can also lead to other problems, such as depression, anxiety and even suicide. For these reasons, it’s important to know the facts about gambling and how it can affect your mental health.

Most people have gambled at some point in their lives. However, some people are more at risk for developing a gambling problem than others. Problem gambling can have serious consequences for your mental and physical well-being, relationships and finances. If you have a gambling problem, getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Many people with a gambling problem may not realize they have one. They might think that their gambling is no big deal or they may not be aware of how much time and money they are spending on it. Other people may try to hide their gambling activities from family and friends.

Gambling is a widespread activity, with some of the most popular forms being casino games and sports betting. The practice has been around for centuries, with evidence of gambling dating back as far as 2,300 B.C. In fact, some of the earliest dice were found in China, which suggests that the ancient Chinese likely had a rudimentary form of gambling similar to that used today.

In the past, psychiatric experts generally regarded pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. In 1980, when the Psychiatric Manual of Mental Disorders was updated, the American Psychiatric Association classified pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder—which was a fuzzy label that included kleptomania and pyromania, as well as trichotillomania (hair-pulling). In the latest edition of the DSM, the APA has moved pathological gambling into a new chapter on behavioral addictions.

The DSM-5 includes a specific diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. While this is a step in the right direction, it still doesn’t fully capture the complexity of the disorder. There are a number of different factors that can contribute to a gambling problem, and each person is unique. For this reason, it is important to consult a trained clinician for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Several studies have found that individuals with pathological gambling have an increased risk for depression and other mood disorders. These symptoms often co-occur with gambling, and appear to precede the onset of the disorder in some cases.

A number of treatments are available for problem gambling. In addition to medication, psychotherapy can be helpful for people with gambling disorders. This type of therapy can help you learn healthier ways to cope with unpleasant emotions, such as stress and boredom, and improve your ability to make sound financial decisions. Other types of therapy that can be useful for those with gambling disorders include family, marital and career counseling.