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Pathological Gambling


The act of wagering something of value, on an event involving chance, with the intent to win something of equal or greater value. This includes activities such as betting on sports events, using scratch-off tickets, playing casino games or card games, and placing bets with friends. Gambling is not the same as recreational gambling, which involves enjoying the thrill of winning without any serious financial risk.

The definition of pathological gambling (PG) has changed over time, and it is possible that some individuals who have problem gambling may not be diagnosed as having a true disorder. The most current definition is in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is known as DSM, and it lists PG in section three under Substance Abuse and Dependence. This change reflects an understanding of the seriousness of gambling problems and the similarity of the symptoms to those seen in substance abuse disorders.

Behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for a person with gambling disorder, but the type of therapy depends on the specific individual and may take some time to find the right fit. Counseling can help people understand and think about their gambling behaviors, while teaching them healthy coping skills. It can also help people solve their financial problems, and some medications may be used to treat co-occurring conditions.

Longitudinal studies can provide important insight into the onset, development, and maintenance of gambling behavior. However, longitudinal research is difficult to conduct for a number of reasons. These include difficulty in obtaining funding for multiyear studies; concerns that the same participants will be tested repeatedly over time, potentially altering their behavior; and the knowledge that period effects may confound results.