Gambling and Other Disorders


A person gambles when he or she stakes something of value on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident. This activity includes lotteries, casino games, horse races, and organized gambling in any form. Gambling also does not include bona fide business transactions that are valid under the law of contracts, such as purchasing and selling securities or commodities, contracting for a guaranty or insurance, and life, health, and accident insurance.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Shirley’s counselors never told her she had a problem with gambling, but today researchers agree that some people are addicted to it. As a result, the way we think about gambling has changed significantly. It has gone from being a compulsion to one of the same kinds of addictions as alcoholism and other forms of substance dependence.

Understanding the causes and consequences of gambling problems is complicated. For example, many people are addicted to gambling because of other mood disorders, such as depression or stress. Gambling can also be a way to relieve boredom or loneliness. In these cases, treating the underlying mood disorder can help with the gambling problems. For family members, establishing boundaries in managing money and credit is important to keep the problem from getting out of hand.

Other factors that contribute to a gambling disorder include irrational beliefs about gambling. Some people believe that a series of losses or near misses on a slot machine, for instance, signals an imminent win. These beliefs are referred to as the gambler’s fallacy. Another irrational belief is the idea that the likelihood of an event or outcome depends on its frequency in the past.

Longitudinal studies are needed to better understand the relationship between gambling and other disorders. However, these types of studies are difficult to conduct. They require a large number of participants over a prolonged period, and they are often subject to a variety of biases. For example, a researcher may assume that an increase in the probability of winning on a slot machine is due to its having been played more frequently in the past, rather than its overall chances of success. In addition, a participant’s behavior over time may be affected by his or her aging and/or period effects. Despite these limitations, longitudinal research on gambling is becoming more common and sophisticated. This is partly because of the growth of internet gambling and the availability of a wide range of self-assessment tools that can be used by individuals. These tools can help identify potential comorbidities and predict the effects of gambling on quality of life. This information can then be used to develop interventions. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in addressing irrational beliefs about gambling and other disorders. These therapies can help people challenge and replace their irrational beliefs with more reasonable ones. For instance, they can learn to recognize the ways their irrational beliefs lead to risky behaviors and teach them healthier coping skills.