Gambling is an activity in which people place something of value at risk, such as money or goods, against an uncertain outcome that is determined by chance. There are many forms of gambling, including lotteries, cards, games of chance, slots, machines, scratchcards, racetracks and animal tracks, dice, keno, and sports betting. In some cultures, gambling is considered taboo.
Although most adults and adolescents engage in some form of gambling, a small percentage go on to develop a gambling disorder, which is defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent, compulsive, and uncontrollable gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment in several aspects of life. People who have a gambling disorder may experience:
Problem gamblers often lie to family members, therapists, and other people to conceal the extent of their involvement in gambling; frequently return after losing money in order to try to get even (or “chase” their losses); or jeopardize or lose important relationships, jobs, or educational or career opportunities because of gambling. They may also use illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft, and embezzlement, to fund their gambling activities. Some problem gamblers have even committed suicide in response to their gambling problems.
Despite the prevalence of casinos and other gambling venues, there is little social stigma attached to gambling and there are few laws regulating it. As a result, gambling has become accessible to many people worldwide. In addition to traditional casino-style gambling, individuals can now place bets on virtually any event or game using the Internet, telephone, or mobile devices.
In addition, more and more people are starting to gamble at younger ages, with some as young as middle school. People who start gambling at a young age are particularly susceptible to developing a gambling disorder, especially those with lower incomes who have more to lose and fewer resources to draw upon in case of a financial emergency. Research has shown that people with gambling disorders have smaller volumes in their amygdala and hippocampus, regions associated with emotional learning and stress regulation.
Getting help for a gambling addiction can be difficult and long-lasting, but there are many organizations that offer treatment programs and counseling. The first step is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help, which can take tremendous courage for some. Once you are ready to begin the recovery process, it’s essential to find a therapist who specializes in treating gambling disorders. Get matched with a qualified therapist today.