A person who engages in gambling is exposed to the risk of losing money or other assets. They may also experience negative consequences to their health, family, social and work life. Gambling can also be addictive and lead to other mood and behavior disorders, such as depression, substance abuse or self-harm.
Psychiatrists have long considered pathological gambling to be more of a compulsion than an addiction, despite its high rates of recurrence. But this past year, in a move that has drawn praise and criticism, the Psychiatric Association moved it to the same chapter of its manual as other impulse control disorders like kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
It’s important to recognise that harms can be caused at any level of engagement. Abbott et al’s conceptual framework is particularly sensitive in this respect, delineating harms in terms of their severity and identifying that they occur at different levels of behavioural or engagement intensity. It also recognises that these harms are not necessarily caused by the behaviour itself and instead may be a consequence of underlying factors such as the environment or a sense of loss of control.
Problem gamblers often develop irrational beliefs about betting, such as thinking they are more likely to win after experiencing a string of losses or the belief that certain rituals will bring them luck. CBT can help people to challenge these irrational beliefs and retrain their thinking. Another common irrational belief is the fallacy that you can get back any losses by betting more, which is known as chasing your losses. This is a classic example of the Gambler’s Fallacy, and it doesn’t make any sense at all.