Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the betting of something of value, usually money, on an event with an uncertain outcome that is determined at least in part by chance. This includes any game involving a wager where there is an opportunity to win a prize, but does not include bona fide business transactions in which risk is transferred, such as insurance contracts and actuarial estimates of probable loss in the sale of futures or options, or the purchase and sale at a future date of securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty, or life, health or accident insurance.

Despite the fact that gambling does not involve ingesting chemical substances, it can still produce the same positive dopamine response as drugs and is considered a serious addiction. People are most vulnerable to developing gambling problems when they have a history of depression or other mood disorders, such as anxiety, which can be triggered by or made worse by excessive gambling. In addition, gambling is often a way for people to cope with boredom and loneliness by seeking out social activities or entertainment, but there are many other healthier ways of coping with these feelings, such as exercise, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or engaging in other hobbies.

Many people have trouble recognizing when their gambling has become problematic, in large part because they don’t know what to look for. Many people have a strong attachment to their hobbies, and are reluctant to let go of them, especially if they have invested a lot of time and energy in them. They also may have a hard time separating their hobby from their work and social life, which can lead to an inability to concentrate or make decisions.

A number of factors can increase the risk of gambling problems, including family history of addiction or mental illness, substance abuse, and a lack of self-control or motivation. In general, those who are poorer or more likely to be unemployed have greater vulnerability to gambling problems than those in higher socioeconomic groups. Young people, particularly men, are also at a greater risk than those of an equivalent age who do not gamble.

The term “gambling disorder” has been in use since the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. The development of a diagnostic label such as this is important because it helps individuals and families recognize the severity of their problem and seek treatment. The DSM nomenclature has been influenced by the increasing recognition that pathological gambling shares a lot of the same characteristics as other addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism. It has also fueled the development of new treatment approaches such as community-based recovery programs, modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. These models address the underlying issues that can contribute to gambling behavior and are essential to long-term recovery. They have been shown to be more effective than pharmacological treatments in many cases.