Gambling is a game of chance in which you place something of value—such as money, goods or services—on the outcome of an event that depends partly on chance. You can bet on sporting events, games of chance like roulette or blackjack, or even the lottery. Whether you win or lose, gambling is a risky activity and can have serious consequences for your finances and relationships. In extreme cases, gambling can lead to addiction and even suicide.
Some people gamble to escape boredom or to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as stress, anxiety or anger. Others are attracted to the euphoria that results from winning a large sum of money. However, there are other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings or get bored, such as exercise, socializing with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. However, in a decision that has been widely hailed as a landmark move, the American Psychiatric Association recently moved pathological gambling to the “impulse control disorders” section of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This change reflects a growing understanding of the biology behind addiction and has already changed the way many psychiatrists treat people with the condition.
If you have a friend or loved one with a problem with gambling, it is important to support them and help them find treatment and recovery resources. This can include inpatient or residential treatment programs for severe gambling addiction, and peer-led recovery groups like Gamblers Anonymous.