Gambling is the wagering of something of value (usually money) on an event that involves chance, such as a game of chance or the outcome of a sporting event. It is often considered a form of entertainment, but can also be an addictive and harmful behaviour.
There are two main types of gambling: chance-based and skill-based. Skill-based gambling allows players to use techniques and tactics to sway the odds in their favour, for example, with games of strategy like poker or blackjack. In contrast, chance-based gambling such as the lottery or scratchcards involves elements that are entirely out of a player’s control, meaning they have a high risk of losing money.
Gambling can be a risky activity and can have serious consequences for health, relationships and wellbeing. People who are experiencing problems with their gambling should seek help. There are a number of different ways to do this, including talking therapies and self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. It is also important to address any underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which may contribute to or be made worse by compulsive gambling.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction. However, in an effort to make it more recognizable as an impulse control disorder (similar to kleptomania or trichotillomania), the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling into the Addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in its latest edition published this May.
Research shows that many people who have gambling disorders have other psychiatric problems as well. Depression, stress, and substance abuse are all associated with gambling disorders. It is also important to note that some people may be at higher risk for gambling problems if they have a family history of these issues.
While there is no single cure for gambling disorder, a combination of treatment approaches is usually recommended. These include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. In addition, some medications have been shown to be helpful, particularly those that treat mood disorders.
The defining feature of gambling harm is that it adversely affects the person who engages in the behaviour, their families, and broader society. It is also a dynamic process, with harms occurring throughout the life of the gambler, rather than being confined to the period from when they reach a gambling harm threshold. This broader definition of harm has led to the identification of six separate thematic classifications of harm: financial harms, emotional or psychological harms, impacts on relationship, work and study, social impact, and cultural harms. This definition has the potential to guide how harms are measured and reported, and to facilitate a public health approach to gambling related harm. It is therefore an important step forward for the field of gambling harm.