The act of placing a bet on an event with the intent to win something of value. This includes activities such as sports betting and the buying of lottery tickets, but excludes activities such as purchasing insurance (a bet that one will die within a specified period), playing poker or other card games, and investing in securities. A person must be at least 18 to participate in gambling.
A person can gamble for a variety of reasons. Some people do it for financial gain, while others do it for entertainment or to socialize with friends. Gambling is often a source of stress and can result in emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression. People with gambling disorders can also have difficulties with work, family, and friends.
In general, people who are concerned about a loved one’s gambling should try to understand why their loved one is behaving in this way. They should also be aware of the resources available to help someone with a gambling disorder, such as self-help treatments and inpatient treatment or rehab programs.
There are four main reasons why someone might gamble: for money, to socialize, for a rush or ‘high’, and for coping. In some cases, the underlying cause of a gambling problem is a mental health disorder or co-occurring disorder such as depression or anxiety. In these cases, treatment can help to reduce the symptoms of these conditions and improve a person’s ability to manage their gambling behaviour.
It is important to remember that compulsive gambling can affect anyone. However, the risk is higher for people who have other psychiatric or medical conditions. People who have a history of alcohol abuse are also at increased risk of developing problems with gambling.
Until recently, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as a form of impulse control disorder, which was a vague label for a collection of somewhat related illnesses that included kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). This change in understanding was driven by research showing that in some cases, gambling is actually a true addiction.
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called DSM-5, moved pathological gambling into a new category called behavioral addictions. This is based on the finding that, in some cases, it can be treated the same as substance-related addictions. This change is a landmark, reflecting current knowledge about how addictive behaviors occur in the brain and are treated. It is expected to change the way psychiatrists treat people who have this type of disorder. This may include prescribing medications to help regulate the brain’s reward systems. For some, this can be enough to stop their gambling disorder. For others, inpatient or residential treatment or rehabilitation is needed. This may involve cognitive behavior therapy or group counseling and may include medications. In some cases, the treatment plan will also address any underlying conditions such as depression or anxiety. The treatment of gambling disorder can be very successful if it is started early and is given sufficient support and care.