Pathological Gambling


Gambling is putting something of value on an event determined by chance with the intention of winning something else of value. It requires three elements – consideration, risk, and prize. It can happen in casinos, on slot machines, in horse racing, or even on scratchcards.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious problem that affects about 0.4%-1.6% of Americans. It typically develops in adolescence or early adulthood and persists for several years. Psychiatrists and psychologists are trained to diagnose and treat people with PG.

A key goal of treatment is to reduce unhealthy gambling behaviors. Therapy can teach people new coping skills and help them overcome the thoughts that drive their addiction. Counseling can also help people understand why they gamble and think about alternatives to gambling. There are no medications that are specifically approved for treating PG, but some medications can help treat co-occurring mental health problems.

People gamble for different reasons. Some people gamble to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as stress or boredom. Others do it because they enjoy thinking about what they would do with a jackpot win. It’s important to learn how to relieve these feelings in healthier ways – for example, exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. People who gamble can also benefit from joining a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups can help you find a sponsor, someone who has successfully recovered from gambling disorder and can provide guidance and encouragement.

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