The Difference Between Gambling and Pathological Gambling

Gambling involves placing something of value at risk on an event that has a high degree of uncertainty, with the aim of winning more than what is invested. This can take many forms, from placing a bet on a team in a football match to buying a scratchcard. In a commercial context, gambling can be broader, with companies betting on new products or markets in the hope that they will be successful.

Social gambling can involve playing card games or board games for small amounts of money, participating in a friendly sports betting pool, or even buying lottery tickets with colleagues. However, some people take this form of gambling much more seriously and make a living from it, either through honest or dishonest means. These are known as professional gamblers, and they tend to be experts in the specific game or games they play, using strategy and skill to win over the long term.

In contrast, pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health disorder that causes compulsive and problematic gambling behavior. It is estimated that between 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the diagnostic criteria for PG. Typically, a person with a diagnosis of PG will develop symptoms in adolescence or young adulthood and continue to struggle with them throughout their life.

The first step to overcoming gambling addiction is recognising that you have a problem. It may feel like a huge admission, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money or damaged your relationships through this behaviour. But there is help available and you are not alone. Many others have walked the same road and have been able to break the habit and rebuild their lives.

There are several things that can help you reduce your gambling addiction, including limiting the time spent on the activity and seeking therapy. You can also try to minimise financial risk factors, such as reducing the use of credit cards and keeping only a small amount of cash on you at all times. It is also a good idea to find alternative recreational activities or hobbies that can fill the space left by gambling.

A gambling addiction can have a profound effect on your family and career, but it is possible to seek treatment for the condition. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you change unhealthy gambling behaviors and replace them with healthier ones, as well as address underlying issues such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Medications can also be used to treat the compulsions that drive gambling addiction, particularly for those with a co-occurring mental health condition.

If you have a gambling addiction, talk to a therapist today. The world’s largest online therapist service will match you with a professional, licensed, and vetted therapist in less than 48 hours. Start your session with a free, anonymous, and confidential chat now. Or if you prefer, call us and we will be happy to answer your questions. This is a safe and secure way to receive the help you need.