What Is So Bad About Gambling?

A person with compulsive gambling may have the following behavioral attributes and symptoms include obsession with gambling games and more.

Gambling is betting of money or something of value on a game or situation, where the outcome is not known. The primary intent of gambling is to win money or valuable materials. The problem related to gambling is called pathological gambling (compulsive gambling/gambling addiction/disordered gambling).

The American Psychiatric Association has defined and recognized gambling as a mental disorder that is characterized by a pattern of continued gambling despite negative physical, psychological and social consequences. Gambling that causes significant personal and social harm is known as problem gambling.

A survey says approximately 1.6 percent of North-American adults may be pathological gamblers and 3.9 percent may be problematic gamblers, bringing the combined percentage of a disordered gambler to less than 5 percent.

Gambling is historically and predominantly seen in men, but in recent years, women’s gambling participation has also been seen. A Finnish population survey states that men tend to gamble more often for excitement, entertainment, and fun, whereas women gambled more often than men to win money. People with gambling disorders are often involved in activities, such as lotto, scratch cards, sports betting, slot machines, roulette, playing cards for money, or gamble on the internet. Women often gamble because it offers an escape route from negative emotional states and boredom. 

Many people who present with a gambling disorder may have gambled away from their family home or incurred debts so serious that they are no longer able to pay the rent or mortgage. They may have lost contact with their family, partner, and children and become homeless, depressed, or even suicidal. Lying to close friends and family about one’s gambling is a feature shared with other addictions. Many people with gambling disorders may be associated or trapped in criminal activity and violence out of desperation to recoup the lost funds. The harm from such associated behaviors highlights the importance of early intervention and treatment. Researchers found that problematic and pathological gambling is more prevalent among alcohol addicts than in the general population.

How do you recognize someone with a gambling disorder?

People with a compulsive gambling problem are compelled to keep playing to recover their money, unlike most casual gamblers who stop when they lose or set a loss limit. This pattern becomes increasingly destructive over time. A person with compulsive gambling may have the following behavioral attributes and symptoms:

  • Obsession with gambling games
  • Constantly planning to get more gambling money
  • Need to gamble to get more money to maintain the thrill
  • Tried to control but failed to quit gambling
  • Gambling more to chase losses
  • Jeopardizing close relationships because of gambling
  • Losing a job, opportunities, or responsibilities due to gambling
  • Gambling to relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, or depression
  • Resorting to fraud to get gambling money
  • Lying to close ones about the extent of gambling
  • Asking for help in financial trouble because a person has gambled the money away

What are the potential causes of gambling?

The potential causes for gambling may include

Is gambling disorder treatable?

Gambling will be treated and handled by a healthcare professional like any other addiction. A person with alcohol addiction will be screened for problematic and pathological gambling. There are a variety of methods to help treat gambling addiction. Customized therapy plans will be given to alcohol addicts in a way that considers gambling activities. The treatment options are

  • Non-Pharmacological treatment: There are primary therapies used to treat gambling disorders, such as
    • Behavioral therapy
    • Cognitive therapy
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication: There are no approved pharmacological treatments for pathological gambling. Often a person with compulsive gambling has other conditions, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (excessive thoughts, which leads to repetitive behaviors). Therefore, the psychiatrist may prescribe
    • Antidepressants
    • Mood stabilizers
    • Antipsychotic agents
    • Opiate antagonists (naltrexone and nalmefene)


What are opioids used to treat? See Answer
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Mayo Clinic. Compulsive Gambling. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-gambling/symptoms-causes/syc-20355178

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