When Gambling Becomes a Problem

Gambling involves risking something of value — such as money, time or energy — for the chance to win something of equal value. It can be done in a variety of ways, including betting on a football match or buying a scratchcard. When you gamble, the chances of winning are determined by chance, so nobody knows what the outcome will be.

Gambling can happen in casinos, at races, at sporting events, and on the internet. It can be an enjoyable activity, but it’s important to know when it becomes a problem and how to get help.

Problem gambling can be difficult to recognise, and some people hide their gambling from others or lie about how much they’re spending. They may also begin to feel compelled to chase losses, thinking they’re due for a big win and that they can recoup their lost money.

The word ‘gambling’ is in the psychiatric dictionary since 1887, and was once considered a form of impulse control disorder along with kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (hair-pulling). However, the American Psychiatric Association recently moved pathological gambling to the chapter on addictions in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This change reflects the growing recognition that gambling disorder is similar to other addictions in terms of its clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and treatment.