Gambling involves wagering something of value (money, commodities, property) on events whose outcomes are uncertain. The gambler’s goal is to win more than he or she risks, ideally by accumulating winnings over time. This is a common recreational behaviour, but it can also be pathological and cause serious problems.
Symptoms of gambling addiction include: – a desire to gamble despite the negative consequences; – hiding evidence or lying to family members about gambling activities; – a preoccupation with gambling that interferes with daily functioning; and – reliance on others to fund, replace, or cover up gambling losses. It is possible for an individual with a gambling disorder to recover from the habit. Counselling, psychotherapy, and support groups can help individuals gain control over their gambling and develop healthier relationships with family and friends.
Cognitive theory of gambling suggests that distorted appraisals of risk and control are key factors in pathological gambling. In addition, there is an underlying biological mechanism that can contribute to the development of these distorted beliefs. Humans are generally poor at processing probability and judging randomness. Classic studies from experimental psychology demonstrate this, for example, by showing that subjects prefer sequences of coin tosses that do not have long runs of heads and tails over balanced overall frequencies.
There is no FDA-approved medication for the treatment of gambling disorders, but a combination of psychotherapy, financial management and family therapy can help. Financial therapy can include setting a fixed amount of money that the person will spend on gambling and making arrangements to ensure that this amount is not exceeded. Family therapy can help re-establish healthy communication and create a more stable home environment.