What Is Gambling Addiction?

What Is Gambling Addiction?


Whether you’re at the casino, playing online or at home, gambling involves wagering something of value on a chance event. Generally, you win the prize if you predict the outcome correctly. However, it’s not always possible to determine the odds of an event, and you may lose more than you wagered. This is why gambling is considered a risky activity, and why people often struggle with compulsive gambling.

Historically, gambling was seen as immoral and illegal. But as more people began to gamble and more states legalized it, the concept of gambling took on a different tone. Today, many people gamble for fun, or as a way to socialize with friends. It’s a popular pastime that can be very rewarding and relaxing, but it’s important to recognize when your gambling is causing harm or taking up too much of your time.

Understanding what constitutes gambling can help you avoid problem behaviors and find treatment if you have one. Many underlying mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, can contribute to gambling problems and make them worse. Getting treatment for these conditions can help you regain control of your life and get back on track.

Some forms of gambling are private, such as games of skill like poker or blackjack played with friends in a home setting. Other forms are public, such as sports betting or horse racing. Many states have laws that regulate gambling and provide resources to assist those with problem gambling.

The term “gambling addiction” has been used since the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in 1980. The DSM-3’s criteria for pathological gambling emphasize its similarity to substance dependence.

While many factors can cause gambling addiction, a traumatic life experience or loss of control over finances or relationships can be triggers. Symptoms can include frequent, urgent urges to gamble; lying to others about how much you’re spending or losing; and hiding evidence of gambling activity.

If you feel the urge to gamble, try to stay in control by using a betting system or limits. Only gamble with money set aside for entertainment and never use money you’re saving for other needs or bills. Avoid drinking alcohol or other substances while gambling, as they can affect your judgment and decision making. Do not gamble when you’re upset or stressed, as these emotions can influence the choices you make.

Reach out to a therapist for guidance if you’re struggling with gambling addiction or worried about someone you know. Therapy can teach you how to change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, and solve the financial, work and family problems that are caused or made worse by gambling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also help you learn to recognize red flags of problematic gambling and develop coping skills that will last a lifetime. For more information, contact the CUCRC and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The CUCRC provides community, support and connection to students, faculty and staff who are in recovery or seeking recovery from a wide range of behaviors, including gambling.