Gambling is the wagering of something of value, including money and/or material goods, on an event with an uncertain outcome. The prize may range from a modest amount to a life-changing sum of money. The activity is often illegal and can be regulated. Examples of gambling include lotteries, horse racing, sports betting and playing casino games such as slot machines or video poker.
A person is considered to be compulsive if their behavior is characterized by preoccupation with gambling, or if they spend disproportionate amounts of time thinking about gambling activities. They may lie to others or conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling, and they often seek out ways to raise money to gamble. They also frequently return to gambling after losing money, trying to recover their losses (“chasing” their losses). These behaviors are accompanied by negative consequences such as depression, anxiety and financial difficulties.
In the past, people who were exhibiting these symptoms were referred to as “gamblers with problems,” but this terminology has been replaced by a more accurate clinical diagnosis of pathological gambling, which is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (called DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. This change in nomenclature has been influenced by, and stimulated, developments in our understanding of the nature of problem gambling and the psychological processes that underlie it.
The DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for Pathological Gambling include a history of gambling disorder, persistent and recurrent gambling episodes, a compulsion to gamble, impairment in gambling control and/or impairment in gambling satisfaction, a negative attitude toward gambling and/or a preoccupation with gambling. The underlying cause of problem gambling can be complex, and treatment is often challenging for people with this condition. In many cases, a person who has a gambling disorder will require multiple forms of therapy and may need to switch treatments several times.
To help prevent gambling addiction, it is important to understand that gambling should be seen as entertainment and not a way to make money. It is also important to set boundaries and stick to them. For example, never drink alcohol while gambling – it impairs judgment and can lead to reckless decisions. Finally, always start with a fixed amount that you are prepared to lose and don’t go beyond that. This will help to avoid the “gambler’s fallacy,” which is the tendency to think that you are due for a win and can recover your lost money. The truth is that you will likely lose more than you win. In addition to setting money boundaries, it is also helpful to seek out support and learn more about gambling addiction and its effects. There are a number of resources available to individuals and families who need help with problem gambling, including family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling. These services can help a person regain control of their finances and repair damaged relationships. They can also teach them more about how to manage their money responsibly and stay away from the casinos.