Gambling Disorders


Gambling is the wagering of something of value, often money, on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. The activities of gambling can also be conducted with non-money items such as marbles or collectible game pieces (such as pogs and Magic: The Gathering cards). Gambling is a widespread activity, and governments regulate or ban it in many jurisdictions. Many people who gamble enjoy it as a form of entertainment, but some people develop a gambling disorder.

A person can be addicted to gambling even if they have never won any money. People with this problem have frequent urges to gamble, and cannot control their gambling behavior. They may spend more than they can afford and often try to recover their losses by gambling again. They may also be secretive about their gambling.

People gamble for many reasons, including the excitement of winning money and the chance to socialize with friends. Gambling stimulates the brain’s reward system and can cause feelings of euphoria, similar to the effect of taking drugs. Some people use gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions or relieve boredom. They might also feel a sense of achievement by winning money or accumulating trophies. Other people might be driven by a desire to meet other basic human needs, such as a need for status and belonging.

To help someone with a gambling problem, encourage them to seek treatment. This can include psychotherapy or other types of mental health treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications to treat gambling disorders, but several types of psychotherapy can be helpful. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, family and group therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.