Gambling is the activity of wagering something of value on an event that is purely chance, and involves the risk that one may lose that item. The most common form of gambling is playing casino games like slots, table games (such as blackjack, roulette and baccarat) and card games, but can also include activities such as bingo, dead pool, lotteries, pull-tab games, scratchcards and Mahjong. Gambling can take place in casinos, online and at other venues such as sporting events or even gas stations. It can be a very addictive activity and, because of its prevalence, is highly stigmatised.
While most people have gambled at some time, a small subset develop pathological gambling. This is a severe and persistent problem that can cause significant distress or impairment in their lives. It is classified as a behavioral addiction in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Pathological gambling has several underlying causes. Some are biological, such as a genetic predisposition or an imbalance in the brain’s reward system. Others are related to psychological factors such as depression, anxiety and stress, which can trigger or make worse gambling problems. In addition, certain mood disorders such as bipolar disorder can also affect gambling behavior and lead to self-destructive habits.
It is important to remember that the person who is struggling with gambling may not have a choice as to how their life has turned out. They did not choose to become addicted and they did not choose to win early on. It is important to understand this and avoid getting angry at them, especially if they have been gambling for many years and are still losing money. It is also important to recognise that they are doing their best to try and change, and to continue to seek help, despite how often they might fall back into old habits.
When someone has a gambling addiction, they can be found anywhere in the world. Traditionally, they have been restricted to casinos in cities such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City, but the advent of online and mobile gambling has made this activity more accessible. It is possible to gamble from almost anywhere in the world at any time of day or night, and people can play online games for real money, use state-licensed lotteries, or bet on sports events with organised pools.