Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or other items) on an event whose outcome is uncertain in order to win something of value. It can be done for fun or for money, but if it is a problem, people may find themselves in situations where they lose control over their gambling habits and end up losing their homes, family, relationships, jobs and even their lives.
Psychiatrists have long recognised that gambling can be problematic, but in the past they regarded pathological gambling as a form of impulse-control disorder (which also includes kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania) rather than an addiction. However, this year the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling into the category of addictions in its latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
People gamble for a variety of reasons. For some it is a social activity, and for others it gives them a sense of excitement or a rush. Other people may do it for coping reasons, such as to forget their worries or to make themselves feel more confident. In addition, many people think that they will eventually win and get their money back – this is known as chasing your losses.
People can help to prevent gambling problems by only gambling with disposable income and not money that they need for bills or rent. They should also set time and money limits for themselves, so that they are forced to stop gambling when these are reached. They should also avoid gambling when they are feeling depressed or anxious, as these can cause them to make poor decisions.