Although it’s common for people to gamble, for some the habit can become dangerous. Millions of Americans gamble; some have serious gambling problems that affect their lives, health, and relationships. Fortunately, treatment is available.
Gambling is a form of wagering something of value (money, goods, services, or life-years) on an event with uncertain outcomes, where the risk of losing exceeds the chance of winning. It can be done in person, over the phone, or on the Internet. Some forms of gambling are illegal, but many are not. For example, buying stocks is a form of gambling because you bet on the future performance of the company, and if you are right, you’ll get your money back plus some more – but you will also lose if you are wrong. Insurance is another form of gambling, since it is a bet that you will die within a certain time; you pay a premium to cover your family in the event of your death, and the insurance company sets the odds of you dying within a given period according to actuary data.
Pathological gambling is associated with mood disorders, such as depression. Symptoms of depression often precede the onset of pathological gambling, and depressive symptoms are reported by up to 50% of treated pathological gamblers. Other risk factors include age, gender, and family history. The first step to overcoming a gambling problem is acknowledging that you have one. Then you can take steps to change your behaviors. Consider getting a therapist for yourself or joining a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Avoid isolation and downplaying or lying about your gambling behavior; this will only exacerbate it.