Is Gambling an Addiction?


Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or personal possessions) on an event with a significant element of randomness and/or chance. It differs from other forms of speculative activity, such as investing or betting on business or sporting events. Although some people may not consider gambling to be an addiction, there is a real risk that someone could become dependent on the act. This can have devastating consequences for individuals and their families, affecting physical health, relationships and work or study performance, as well as getting them into trouble with the law and into severe debt.

Gambling can occur in a variety of ways, from playing card games at home with friends to betting on horse races or football accumulators within a social circle to placing bets over the internet. It can also involve wagering with materials that are not money, such as marbles or collectible game pieces like Pogs or Magic: The Gathering.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorder, but psychotherapy can help. This type of treatment includes a range of techniques, including teaching a person healthier behaviors and how to cope with unpleasant emotions. Other therapies might include addressing any coexisting mental health conditions and finding healthier ways to relieve boredom, stress or loneliness. For example, people might try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. They might also seek support from a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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