A person gambles when he or she puts something of value at risk (such as money, merchandise, property, or time) to predict the outcome of an event that is largely based on chance. Gambling can occur in many different forms, including putting money on a football team to win a game, betting with friends, or playing scratchcards. People can also bet on the results of a horse race or lottery. Some people are able to control their gambling behaviors, but others develop a problem. Pathological gambling is a disorder that is characterized by recurrent, maladaptive patterns of behavior. It is estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet criteria for a pathological gambling (PG) diagnosis. The disorder may start in adolescence or young adulthood, and it tends to be more common among men than women.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity, which can make them more likely to be addicted to gambling than other people. They may also have coexisting mental health conditions that increase their impulsivity, such as anxiety or depression.
Some communities view gambling as a common pastime, which can make it harder to recognize when someone is struggling with a gambling problem. Family members should try to understand why their loved one gambles – such as for entertainment, to socialize, or to forget their worries. They should also try to find healthier ways to spend their free time and address any other mental health issues.