Understanding Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (as money or other valuable goods) on an uncertain event with the hope of winning a larger sum of money. Examples of gambling include betting on sports events, lottery tickets, horse races and casino games. While most people who gamble do so without problems, a small percentage of adults and adolescents develop a gambling disorder. This is characterized by a persistent and recurrent pattern of gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment in multiple areas of life.

There are many ways to gamble, from the obvious (bets on sports or lottery tickets) to the less common, including online poker, video gambling, and DIY investing. In addition, many virtual worlds offer players the chance to gamble using in-game currency. These transactions are often not regulated and are rarely reported to government agencies, making it difficult for authorities to monitor them.

A person’s underlying motivation and cognitive distortions can play a role in their risky behaviors. For example, some people are prone to irrational decision-making under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Other individuals have difficulty controlling their urges, which can lead them to gamble even when they’re experiencing financial difficulties.

Understanding how gambling works can help people identify and avoid triggers. Some of the most common triggers for problem gamblers are social pressure to gamble, being around friends who gamble and feeling compelled to chase their losses by placing bigger bets in an attempt to win back the money they’ve lost.

People with gambling disorders may also experience a variety of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. They also tend to be more likely to have a substance use disorder than people who do not have a gambling disorder.

There are a number of different approaches to treating gambling disorders, from support groups to therapy and medications. Individuals can also take steps to manage their problem gambling by setting personal boundaries and creating a healthy balance of activities in their lives.

If you think you may have a gambling disorder, start by accepting that there is a problem and seeking treatment. Then, work on modifying your behavior to get back in control. You can also join a support group to learn from others with similar experiences and seek connection in a nonjudgmental environment. Finally, be sure to limit your time spent gambling by scheduling it into your day, setting a timer or leaving when you’ve reached your allotted amount of time. And always keep a certain amount of money in your wallet or other safe place, so you’re not tempted to gamble with more than you can afford to lose. Also, try not to gamble when you’re upset or in pain — these emotions can make it harder to make good decisions.