Gambling is the act of putting something of value, usually money, at risk on an event with an element of chance and with the hope of winning a prize. The term can also be used to describe games such as bingo, keno, slot machines, horse races, dice, and roulett. It is a common activity in many countries.
In most jurisdictions, gambling is legal if the gambler is over the age of eighteen and plays within the legal limits. Responsible gambling involves a comprehensive and collaborative approach among government, gaming operators, regulators, treatment providers, community groups and individual gamblers. This approach promotes responsible gambling and minimizes harm to the community and individuals.
Longitudinal studies (research conducted over a multiyear period) can be very beneficial in gambling research. However, longitudinal research is often impeded by numerous challenges including a lack of funding to support a long-term commitment; difficulties with maintaining research team continuity over a lengthy time period; and the fact that longitudinal data can confound aging and period effects (e.g., a person’s new interest in gambling may be due to a change in life circumstances or the opening of a local casino).
The term disordered gambling is used to describe a range of behavioral problems ranging from those that place a person at increased risk for developing more serious gambling disorders (subclinical) to those behaviors that would meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A person’s level of disordered gambling behavior can be assessed using clinical interviews, self-report questionnaires and other empirically validated instruments.
Some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity. These traits are reflected in the way their brains process reward information and regulate impulses. In addition, certain medical conditions like depression and other psychiatric illnesses can increase a person’s vulnerability to gambling problems.
People often gamble as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings and unwind, but there are healthier ways to do this such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up new hobbies. The most important thing is to recognize unpleasant emotions and find other ways of coping.
A person who has a problem with gambling may lie to family members, therapists and others about the extent of his or her involvement in gambling; steal or embezzle funds to fund gambling activities; bet against his or her own best interests; or engage in other illegal activities such as forgery, fraud or theft in order to finance gambling. These behaviors can cause a person to jeopardize important relationships, work, educational or career opportunities. A person with a gambling disorder may also be impulsive, irresponsible, or insensitive to the needs and feelings of others. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can be helpful in changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy includes a wide range of techniques, including cognitive therapy and interpersonal therapy.