In the simplest terms, gambling involves betting something of value on an uncertain event that is based in some way on chance or skill. This could be a game of dice, a coin toss, a card game or even a horse race. The act of gambling can be psychologically or physically addictive, and is generally considered a vice. It is also a common source of stress, and can cause problems in relationships and work. Some people develop a gambling disorder and need professional help.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, from the thrill of winning money to socialising or as an escape from worries and stress. But it can get out of control and lead to debt, family problems, job loss, homelessness and depression. If you’re worried about how gambling is affecting your mental health, it’s important to talk to your doctor or seek help from a support group.
Research on gambling has been hindered by the lack of a comprehensive and standardized diagnostic tool for problem gambling. This has led to the development of a new term, ‘disordered gambling’, to describe a range of problematic behaviors from those that put individuals at risk of developing more serious issues (subclinical) to those that meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for pathological gambling.
There are a number of treatment options for gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of therapy examines how the person thinks and behaves around gambling. It looks at distorted beliefs such as believing you are more likely to win than others, that certain rituals will bring luck or that they can always recoup losses by gambling more.