Pathological Gambling

Pathological Gambling


Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves placing something of value, usually money, on an event with some element of chance and the intention to win. It can involve any type of bet, from lotteries to scratch-off tickets to slot machines. In some countries gambling is illegal, while in others it is heavily regulated.

While many people enjoy gambling and it is a fun activity for some, for others it can have serious consequences. Problem gambling can harm relationships, affect mental and physical health, hinder performance at work or study and lead to debt and homelessness. It can also have a negative impact on family and friends and lead to suicide.

Research shows that up to 1.6% of the population meet the criteria for pathological gambling (PG). Those with PG often start to gamble at an early age and experience problems in several areas of their life. These include:

They may be unable to control their gambling and often feel guilty, angry or anxious about it. They may lose track of time, have trouble with concentration and experience frequent irritability or depression. They may even be withdrawn and socially isolated. They may try to conceal their problem by lying to relatives, therapists or employers and may engage in illegal activities such as forgery or theft to fund their gambling.

In addition to the above, those with a PG are more likely to have poorer job performance and a greater risk of bankruptcy. They are also more likely to experience a higher rate of psychosomatic symptoms, such as musculoskeletal and psychiatric disorders. In fact, some studies have shown a direct link between PG and a high incidence of suicide in individuals with a mental illness.

The vast majority of gamblers do not have a gambling problem, but for those who do, it can have devastating effects. Some people who struggle with gambling will seek treatment and support, while others will continue to gamble despite the damage it causes. While there are a number of different treatments available, most focus on teaching people to resist their impulses and irrational beliefs.

For example, those who are addicted to slot machines might learn that they do not necessarily have to hit the jackpot every time they play. They might also be taught to recognise irrational beliefs such as the belief that three cherries in a row mean a big win, or that a previous loss will soon turn into a win.

If you think your gambling is causing you problems, speak to us for help – it’s free and confidential.