Understanding Gambling Disorders


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (money or items of personal significance) on an outcome that is primarily determined by chance with the intent to realize a gain. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history, and is embedded in many cultures as traditions, customs and rites of passage. Despite its popularity, gambling is also a significant source of harm. In the United States, 2.5 million adults (1%) would be classified as having a severe gambling problem and an estimated 5-8 million (2-3%) are considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems.

Those who have trouble controlling their gambling may hide evidence of their behavior from friends and family. They may lie about how much money they have spent, and even hide their spending habits entirely. In addition, they may become withdrawn from friends and family and withdraw from work or other social activities. Often, these people have other mental health or substance abuse issues that contribute to their gambling behaviors and are at risk of relapse after seeking treatment.

The causes of gambling disorders are complex. There are a number of factors that can influence a person’s susceptibility to gambling problems, including personality traits, genetics, environment and the availability of support systems. Research has also shown that some people who develop gambling disorder have a history of depression, anxiety or other mood disorders, which can trigger or worsen problems with gambling.

While most people who gamble do so for entertainment purposes, a small percentage of individuals become too involved in terms of time invested and money wagered, resulting in substantial negative personal, social, and family consequences. These people are considered to have a gambling problem.

Problem gambling is often accompanied by underlying mood disorders, which can be difficult to treat, and can make it harder to break the gambling habit. These underlying mood disorders can include depression, stress, anxiety, and substance abuse. These conditions can also be made worse by compulsive gambling behaviour, which can cause a person to feel compelled to gamble in order to relieve unpleasant feelings or distract themselves from their problems.

The most important step in overcoming gambling disorder is acknowledging that there is a problem. Although this can be a difficult step, it is an essential one in the process of breaking the gambling habit and rebuilding relationships. Fortunately, there are many organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for those who are struggling with gambling disorder. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed therapists who can help with gambling disorder and other common mental health problems. Get started by taking our short assessment and we will match you with a therapist within 48 hours.