What is Gambling?


Gambling, defined as wagering something of value (usually money) on an event with some element of chance and hoping to gain something in return, has long been seen as both entertainment and an avenue to trouble and misery. Gambling has strong advocates as well as strong opponents; for some it brings prosperity while contributing to crime or personal ruin for others.

Gamblers often display several symptoms, including craving for gambling, denial of their problem and secretive behavior. Gambling addiction often leads to feelings of shame, guilt and hopelessness as their lives unravel into chaos; relationships suffer and they turn increasingly toward drugs or alcohol as sources of comfort.

People suffering from gambling disorders are typically unable to control their urges, but can learn to manage them with help from treatment. Individual and group therapy as well as inpatient/residential programs specializing in this disorder provide invaluable assistance while treatment centers can offer medical monitoring as well as safe environments in which to practice new coping skills.

There can be various reasons for why people develop gambling disorders, and different forms of gambling lead to different issues. But many of those who develop gambling addictions share certain common features:

People gamble for various reasons. Gambling provides temporary relief from daily stressors, can be fun and provide temporary escape, yet quickly become a means of profit or avoidance due to changing brain reward pathways and leading to increased desires for them. Gambling also fulfills needs for status and specialness – casinos capitalize on this notion by advertising themselves as places where one can become one of the best or advance ahead in life.

Psychological influences aside, biological and social forces also contribute to gambling addictions. For example, the human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until age 25, during which time it may become susceptible to bad habits such as gambling. Furthermore, people with poor mathematical skills are more likely to develop gambling issues.

At first, it may seem overwhelming, but remembering there is no single cure-all approach for treating gambling disorders can help family members cope more easily with any difficulties caused by problem gambling. Consulting services including family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling may help address some of the issues caused by problem gambling and provide a platform for long-term recovery as well as reduced relapse risk and more damage prevention within family relationships. It is also essential that financial boundaries be set prior to considering inpatient/residential rehab programs or inpatient treatments and/or rehab programs as part of recovery from problem gambling addiction.

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