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Gambling As an Addiction


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. Gambling may occur in a variety of settings, from casinos to the Internet. It may involve money, but it can also be conducted with items of value that do not represent real currency, such as marbles or collectible trading cards. Card games like poker, blackjack, and spades can be considered gambling when they are played for money. In a private setting, such as among friends and family members in their homes, gambling can take the form of bets on the outcome of a game of chance or a sports event, often with money or chips. Other examples include dice games, bingo, and collectibles like small discs and trading cards.

Most people who gamble are able to stop at some point, and most who do so have no lasting problems. For some, however, gambling becomes an addiction. It is not always clear what leads to the compulsion to gamble, but it is believed that a combination of factors is at play. These can include genetic or psychological disposition, and dramatic changes in brain chemical signals. In addition, a disproportionate amount of rewards are received from gambling compared to the risks.

Some people become addicted to gambling for coping reasons, such as a desire to forget their worries or to feel more self-confident. Others might engage in gambling as a way to socialize and make new friends, or because they enjoy the excitement of trying to win money. These are all good reasons to gamble, but they do not absolve the person of their responsibility to gamble responsibly.

Research suggests that a combination of environmental and genetic factors lead to pathological gambling. The environment may include peer pressure or other people who are also engaging in the behavior, as well as advertising and promotions for the activity. Genetics are also important in that some people are more predisposed to becoming addicted to gambling than others.

A key factor in preventing or treating pathological gambling is making sure that the person does not have a financial incentive to gamble. This can be done by removing credit cards, placing them in someone else’s name, putting money for gambling into a separate account, closing online betting accounts, and keeping only a small amount of cash on you at all times.

Other forms of treatment for problem gambling can include group support and individual therapy. Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling can help a person work through the specific issues that have been created by their gambling behavior and lay the foundation for repairing their relationships and finances. In addition, some people might benefit from a 12-step program for recovery from gambling addiction modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. A number of such programs exist, including Gamblers Anonymous. In many cases, the best approach is a combination of these treatments.