Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event whose outcome is based on chance and without any skill that could increase the odds of winning. It can be done with money, items of value (such as collectibles like marbles or trading cards), or other assets, such as time or energy. Some forms of gambling are legal, while others are not. The most common form of gambling is betting on a game of chance. It can be a social activity, such as placing a bet on a sports event or a horse race, or a business activity, such as a casino or lottery.
A gambling problem may affect an individual’s mental health, physical health, family life, and relationships with friends and coworkers. It can also have a significant negative financial impact on the gambler and his or her family. In addition, people who have a gambling disorder are more likely to have serious psychological and emotional problems than those without such a disorder.
Traditionally, the psychiatric community has viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction. However, in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the APA moved pathological gambling to the addictions chapter. This change reflects an understanding that the biological basis of gambling disorders is similar to other impulse-control disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania.
The risk of losing money and the potential for gaining it are key factors in the development of a gambling disorder. Other risks include social isolation, loss of self-esteem and self-respect, a decline in job performance, and an increased risk of suicide. Gambling behavior can also negatively impact the family and work environment, especially if it leads to financial instability.
Gambling disorder can develop at any age, but symptoms often begin in adolescence or later adulthood. It can be influenced by factors such as family history, adolescent trauma and social inequality. It is more prevalent in men than women. People who have a gambling disorder often lie to family members and therapists about their involvement in gambling, or even engage in criminal acts such as forgery or theft in order to fund their habit. They may also spend significant time “chasing their losses,” trying to recover money lost on a gamble.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, it’s important to seek treatment. Talking to a therapist can help you identify and address the specific issues that are contributing to your or your loved one’s gambling behavior. Depending on the circumstances, treatment options may include family therapy and marriage, career, or credit counseling. You can get matched with a professional, licensed, and vetted therapist for free today through BetterHelp. Just answer a few quick questions and you’ll be on your way to getting help.