Gambling is a form of entertainment where people put something of value (usually money) on the outcome of a game of chance. In some instances, strategy is involved but the majority of the time it is purely a matter of luck or chance. Those who engage in gambling typically do so for pleasure, but some gamble to win large sums of money. Many people who are addicted to gambling experience significant social, financial and emotional problems. It is important for those with a gambling addiction to seek help and treatment.
Several factors can contribute to problematic gambling: an early big win, the size of the win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events, the use of escape coping and stressors in life. When these factors are present, it can be very hard for a person to break free of a gambling habit.
Pathological gambling is also associated with a high rate of comorbidity with substance abuse disorders. This has led to the reclassification of gambling disorder in the DSM-5 as an addictive disorder. The aim of this move is to increase the credibility of gambling as a mental health problem, encourage screening and identification of those who may benefit from treatment, and promote research into effective therapeutic approaches.
Some people are prone to gambling as a result of genetic predisposition, family history and social pressures. Others are more susceptible to gambling due to environmental influences including media exposure and the presence of friends or peers who gamble. However, the vast majority of problem gamblers are able to control their behaviour and limit their losses without suffering serious consequences.
Despite its popularity and widespread availability, gambling is illegal in many countries and is highly regulated in those where it is legal. Regardless of its legal status, gambling is considered psychologically risky and has been linked to a number of harmful outcomes including substance misuse, depression and anxiety.
Gambling is a dangerous activity that can cause financial and emotional problems for those who are unable to stop. Those with a gambling addiction should seek help from a qualified therapist or treatment centre. Treatment for gambling addiction is available and consists of individual and group therapy sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy and medication. Inpatient and residential programs are also available for those with severe gambling addictions who are unable to control their habits without round-the-clock support. These programs are based on the principles of the 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous, and involve finding a sponsor and following a step-by-step recovery plan. Many people also find success through peer support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a national organization that follows a similar format. The goal of these groups is to help members overcome their gambling addiction through a combination of therapy and support from other recovering gamblers. They also provide a safe environment for discussion of issues related to gambling, such as urges to gamble and relapse prevention. Some of these groups also offer support through phone or online meetings.