Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking money or something else of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. It can be done in casinos, by playing bingo or scratch cards, by placing a bet on sports events or office pools, or even by watching TV. The gambler hopes to win, or gain something of value, but the loser forfeits whatever was wagered. Some people struggle with gambling addiction, which can cause significant financial and personal problems.

Most adults and adolescents have placed some type of bet at some point. But some people develop a problem with gambling that interferes with their daily lives, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Gambling disorders tend to affect more men than women, and they typically start in childhood or young adulthood. They are more common among low-income people, who may have more to lose with a single bet than those with wealthier incomes. Vulnerability is also higher in people with mood disorders, like depression or anxiety, which can trigger or make worse gambling behavior.

Several types of psychotherapy can help people with gambling disorders, including individual and group therapy and family psychoeducation. In addition, people can learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions and to cope with boredom, such as by exercising, socializing with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. If you have a loved one who struggles with gambling, be sure to set boundaries in managing money. It is also important to address any underlying mood disorders that could contribute to or worsen gambling behaviors, such as depression, anxiety and stress.