A gambling addiction, also called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling, is an impulse control problem in which a person is addicted to betting on sports, buying lottery tickets, playing slot machines, playing poker, roulette or another activity that involves winning and losing money. Gambling addicts’ venues of choice vary; while some prefer to gamble in a casino, others choose to gamble on the Internet.
Gambling addictions affect roughly 2 to 5 percent of individuals in the United States. Although the addiction is typically affiliated with men, women are developing gambling addictions at increasingly higher rates; some statistics indicate that as many as 25 percent of individuals with the disorder are women. Those with schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, alcohol or cocaine addiction and mood problems are the most at risk for developing a gambling addiction.
Symptoms of gambling addictions include having a preoccupation with gambling—like reliving past gambling experiences—needing more money to fulfill a gambling habit, gambling to alleviate stress and sadness, lying to friends and family to hide how often the sufferer is gambling and repeatedly failing to alleviate a gambling problem.
General gambling addictions mean that individuals engage in excessive gambling behavior to point that it affects their livelihood. There are, however, subsets of the disorder. For instance, binge gambling involves excessive gambling for brief periods of time.
There is no standardized treatment for gambling addictions, and interventions only produce a disappointing 8 percent one-year abstinence rate on average. Nevertheless, gamblers and loved ones of gamblers should seek help from the group Gamblers’ Anonymous. When combined with psychotherapy—specifically cognitive behavioral treatment—from a professional, the success rates improve drastically.