What is Gambling?


The term Gambling refers to wagering something of value (money or items of value) on the outcome of a game of chance. This includes the use of lottery tickets, scratchcards, and casino games such as poker and roulette. It also includes sports betting and game-related activities such as collecting trading cards or playing collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering. The goal is to predict the result of the event or the outcome of a game, and if you are right, you win money. Alternatively, you lose the money or the item of value that you put at risk.

Harms caused by gambling can have many adverse consequences on people’s lives. These harms can include financial distress, relationship problems, and a loss of self-worth. Some people are more prone to harmful gambling, including those with mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Others may be more likely to gamble if they have a family history of gambling addiction, or if they grew up in a culture where gambling was common.

In the DSM-5, gambling disorder has been classified as a behavioral addiction alongside substance and process addictions. This reflects research showing that gambling disorder shares a number of features with other behavioral addictions, including clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and treatment response.

A person who is experiencing a gambling problem can be assisted by professional help, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. This can help them change their beliefs about betting, for example by changing their belief that they are more likely to win than they really are or that certain rituals can bring them luck. It can also help them to learn to recognise when they are feeling an urge to gamble, and to try to postpone or stop gambling for a time.

Some people also seek help from self-help groups for gambling problems, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Support from friends and family can also be helpful, as well as finding new activities to do with your time. Research has shown that physical activity can help to reduce gambling urges.

Medications have not been developed to treat gambling disorders, although some medications may be used to treat co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety. However, counselling is often an effective treatment for gambling disorders. Counselling can help someone understand their urges and think about how their gambling is affecting their life, as well as supporting them in developing alternatives to harmful behaviours.

Adolescents can exhibit pathological gambling, but the nature of this disorder is slightly different from that of adults. For example, adolescents are more likely to lie about their gambling habits or steal money from family and friends. They are also more likely to ‘chase’ their losses by increasing their gambling involvement. This is because adolescent brains are still developing and may be susceptible to certain types of cognitive distortions that distort the odds of events and influence their preferences for gambling. Moreover, they are more likely to be socially isolated from their peers as a consequence of their gambling behaviours.

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