What Is Gambling?


A gamble is an act in which a person risks something of value (money or possessions) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and has the potential to result in a gain. Gambling can involve a variety of activities, from playing slot machines to buying a lottery ticket or betting on horse races. People who are concerned that their gambling is out of control may seek help from a professional, including psychiatrists, other mental health care clinicians, and other treatment providers. Although most people have gambled at some point in their lives, for some it becomes a serious problem. Those who are experiencing signs and symptoms of a gambling disorder should seek out a therapist to assess their situation and provide support and treatment.

A major obstacle in the study of gambling is the lack of a common nomenclature for describing the problem. This is a reflection of the fact that research scientists, psychiatrists, other treatment care clinicians, and public policy makers have developed different paradigms or world views from which to consider these issues; they frame questions about gambling in ways that reflect their disciplinary training, experience, and special interests.

For example, a researcher might focus on the role of recreational interest, diminished mathematical skills, poor judgment, cognitive distortions, or mental illness in explaining a gambler’s behavior, while another investigator might stress the role of family environment, social pressures, and peer influences in the development of gambling problems. The lack of a shared nomenclature also makes it difficult to identify youth who might be at risk of developing a gambling disorder.

Gambling is a dangerous activity because it has the potential to ruin a person’s life and finances. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders, as well as substance use and relationship problems. It can also lead to criminal acts, such as forgery, fraud, embezzlement, and theft, in order to finance a gambling habit. In addition, gambling can have a negative impact on work performance, causing missed appointments and lost wages.

Some people with a gambling problem are able to control their gambling and limit their losses. However, other people are unable to control their urges and become preoccupied with gambling. They often lie to their therapists and others about the extent of their involvement, which can lead to further problems. They might even hide their gambling activities.

A therapist can teach someone strategies to manage their gambling addiction. Among the most important is to set money and time limits and to stick to them. It is also helpful to remove credit cards, have someone else be in charge of the money, and close online gambling accounts. Lastly, the therapist can help the individual work through any other relationships or financial issues that have been affected by the gambling addiction. The biggest step, though, is acknowledging that there is a problem. This can be a very difficult decision, especially for a person who has already lost significant amounts of money and damaged personal or professional relationships because of gambling.