Gambling is a risky activity in which a person places something of value, such as money, on the outcome of an uncertain event. The outcome may be based on chance, such as the result of a roll of dice or spin of a roulette wheel, but it is also possible to make wagers with longer time frames, such as a sports contest or season. The amount of the bet is known as the stake, and the potential winnings are called the prize. Historically, gambling has been associated with organized crime and the mafia, but in recent years there has been a change in attitudes towards gambling and relaxation of laws prohibiting it.
Problem gambling can damage your health, your relationships and your career, as well as lead to financial disaster. It can cause depression, strain family life and even lead to thoughts of suicide. It can also be a trigger for other mood disorders such as anxiety and substance abuse, which often co-occur with gambling problems. It is important to seek help if you have any of these other problems as well as addressing the gambling problem itself.
It can be hard to recognise that you have a gambling problem, especially if it has caused problems in other areas of your life such as work and relationships. When you are in this situation it is a good idea to seek professional help, which can be found through a variety of organisations. Some of these offer support, advice and counselling for individuals with gambling problems, as well as assistance for their families. Others provide education and training to professionals working with this client group.
A number of studies indicate that people who gamble compulsively exhibit a number of characteristics, including impaired impulse control. A number of other factors may influence the onset and progression of problem gambling, including age, family history and gender. Males tend to develop a gambling problem earlier and at a younger age than females. It is also suggested that women with a gambling disorder tend to engage in more strategic, face-to-face forms of gambling such as poker and blackjack, while men are more likely to be attracted to nonstrategic forms of gambling such as slot machines and bingo.
Those who have trouble controlling their gambling habit are often referred to as pathological gamblers. Until recently, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as a form of impulsive behavior rather than an addiction. However, in a move that has been described as a landmark, the American Psychiatric Association shifted the classification of pathological gambling from the category of impulse control disorders (which included kleptomania and pyromania) to that of addictions, in the most recent edition of its diagnostic manual, the DSM. This change is a recognition that gambling is a behavioral addiction similar to other addictive substances and behaviors. Longitudinal studies are needed to confirm this suggestion, but such studies are difficult to perform due to the logistical difficulties of maintaining research team continuity over a long period of time, as well as problems with sample attrition and confounding variables.