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Pathological Gambling

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The element of chance is important in gambling, but strategies can influence the outcome. For example, a bet on a horse race or sports game involves predicting the probability of an event occurring, but a bet on a slot machine requires no prediction of an outcome and only chance and luck are involved.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious problem that can affect people from all walks of life. It is characterized by recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause significant distress, financial loss, and other negative consequences for the individual and their family. It usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood and may develop over time. PG is more prevalent in men than women and is more common in people with lower socioeconomic status.

The definition of a gambling disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is “an impulse control disorder characterized by impaired ability to resist impulsive urges to gamble.” Some symptoms include a preoccupation with gambling, lying to family members or therapists to conceal gambling problems, hiding money spent on gambling, making excuses for spending money on gambling, chasing losses, and committing illegal acts to finance gambling activities. People with this condition also experience feelings of helplessness, anxiety, guilt, or depression.

In a casino, patrons must be polite and respectful to staff and other patrons; casinos do not like rude or obscene behavior. Keeping this decorum is good for your gambling health, too. Casinos also have rules about alcohol consumption, and patrons must be 18 years or older to enter the premises.

A good gambling strategy is to only gamble with disposable income and not money that needs to be saved or paid for bills or rent. Also, only play with a set amount of money and stick to it; never chase your losses. Never believe you are due for a big win; this is the gambler’s fallacy, and it usually leads to bigger losses.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, counseling can be helpful to think about how to deal with it and consider options. Support groups for gambling addiction, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can also be useful. You can also try physical activity, which has been shown to reduce gambling-related problems. If you are caring for a loved one with a gambling problem, make sure their finances are managed responsibly; take over paying bills or credit card debts if necessary. Consider also joining a support group for families of problem gamblers, such as Gam-Anon. This will help you see that many other families have dealt with this issue and find strength in numbers. Lastly, reach out to friends and family for support; it can be difficult to cope with a loved one’s impulses to gamble if you are alone.