Gambling is the act of placing a bet on an outcome that relies on chance rather than skill. It can include any game in which a stake is placed on an event with a potential payout, such as betting on the outcome of a sports match or a horse race, but it also includes activities such as playing the lottery, using scratch-off tickets, or even using a slot machine at a casino. The risk associated with gambling is that you may lose money and you can be harmed by the actions of others involved in gambling.
Pathological gambling is a mental disorder that affects people of all ages and from every walk of life. A person with a gambling problem will gamble to the point where it interferes with their daily life and causes harm to themselves or to those close to them. It is a common addiction and can lead to financial ruin, broken relationships, and legal problems. It can be difficult to recognize a gambling problem, but you can seek help from a professional therapist or support group.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has long considered gambling to be a compulsion rather than an addiction, and in the past only 2% of Americans were diagnosed with it. However, in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the APA has officially moved pathological gambling into the category of addictive disorders. In addition, it has removed the requirement that the behavior must be illegal in order to be classified as a psychiatric disorder.
Research on gambling and harm has been largely focused on assessing behavioural symptoms, such as lying to friends or family members about gambling activity. However, the behavioural measures are subject to bias and can be confounded by other factors, including comorbidities such as depression and substance abuse. A more comprehensive approach to measuring harm is required.
A new definition for harm related to gambling has been developed, which allows for an emphasis on the consequences of gambling and allows the inclusion of harms resulting from non-engagement with gambling (e.g. legacy and intergenerational harms). The definition is also based on a social model of health and can incorporate the effects of comorbidities in the measurement of gambling harms.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, seek help immediately. Seek a therapist or support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. A therapist can teach you techniques to manage your emotions and provide you with healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings that might prompt you to gamble. You can also find out about other addiction treatment options, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you to resist unwanted thoughts and behaviors.
In the meantime, take steps to strengthen your support network and set boundaries in managing finances. It’s important to avoid situations where you might be tempted to gamble, and if you can’t resist temptation, don’t go to the casino or place a bet online. Instead, stay busy with productive activities and find healthy ways to relieve boredom and stress.