Gambling is the act of wagering something of value, such as money or possessions, on a random event that has an uncertain outcome. It is a form of risk-taking, and it often involves the use of skill, but the chance element remains central to the process. Some forms of gambling are more socially acceptable than others; for example, players in lottery games may pay a small amount to enter a draw and receive something of value in return, such as a car or a house.
Some people gamble for a thrill or to escape from everyday stressors, while others may be influenced by family members or friends who are compulsive gamblers. Some people also become addicted to gambling as a way of coping with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. In addition, there is a strong link between gambling and financial crises. Many of these problems can be addressed through treatment and self-help.
It is important to note that any type of gambling can be addictive and cause harm if it becomes out of control. If you are concerned about your own gambling behaviour or the behaviour of someone close to you, you can speak to a professional for help and support.
The term “gambling disorder” is most commonly used to refer to pathological gambling (PG). This condition is defined as a pattern of persistent and recurrent maladaptive behavior involving the compulsion to gamble despite its harmful consequences. It is estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for a PG diagnosis, with men more likely to develop a PG problem and starting to gamble earlier in life.
People who have a PG diagnosis report problems with strategic or face-to-face types of gambling, such as poker or blackjack, as well as nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling like slot machines or bingo. They often start to gamble in adolescence or young adulthood and continue to gamble for several years. Those who develop a PG diagnosis tend to have high-risk ancestry and may be predisposed to the disorder by genetic, biological, environmental, or cognitive factors.
Although there are no medications for a gambling disorder, some people find that counselling can help them to overcome their addiction. Counselling is most often conducted using cognitive behavioural therapy, which looks at beliefs about gambling and how they affect a person’s thoughts and feelings. It can also help a person to consider alternative ways of coping and deal with their stressors.
In addition to a counseling service, there are several organisations that offer support, assistance and advice for those who have a gambling disorder or concern about the gambling habits of a friend or family member. These organisations include The Responsible Gambling Council, StepChange and the GamCare website.