Pathology of Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, property or personal time) on an event that has some degree of uncertainty and involves a risk. It is a form of recreational activity and can be very addictive, negatively impacting your physical and mental health, work and school performance and relationships. People who gamble often exhibit a number of psychological and motivational biases that distort their perception of the odds of an event occurring.

Among these are the tendency to seek out a big win, boredom susceptibility, the illusion of control and impulsivity. Also, a lack of understanding of the nature of random events can influence a person’s preference for particular types of gambling products. It is important to understand these factors so that you can be mindful of the risks involved in gambling and not fall victim to them.

Pathological gambling is defined by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. The behavior may begin in adolescence or young adulthood and becomes problematic several years later. Those who meet criteria for PG often have co-existing disorders, such as depression, substance use disorder or bipolar disorder. Those who are male more commonly develop PG than females. Males are more likely to report problems with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker.

Researchers studying the etiology of gambling addiction employ many methodologies. Longitudinal studies are useful because they follow participants over time and allow comparisons of different groups. In the past, psychiatric scientists and others have framed questions about gambling in different ways, reflecting their disciplinary training and world view.