Gambling involves placing something of value, usually money, on an event that is at least in part determined by chance with the hope of winning a larger prize. It includes activities such as playing cards, bingo, lottery or scratch tickets, horse races, dice games and roulett. It can also include activities that use skills that may improve the odds of success, such as knowing poker strategies or studying horses and jockeys to make predictions about probable outcomes in a race.
Problem gambling can damage a person’s physical and mental health, relationships with family members and friends, performance at work or school, and finances. It can even lead to bankruptcy and homelessness. Many people have difficulty controlling their impulses to gamble, and some are unable to stop even when it interferes with their everyday lives.
In the past, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction-a behavior that was primarily motivated by the need to relieve anxiety rather than a craving for intense pleasure. However, in a move that has been hailed as a milestone, the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has moved pathological gambling into the addictions chapter in the new edition published this past May.
If you’re struggling with a loved one’s gambling addiction, get help. Family therapy and other types of support can help you address problems that arise in the context of your relationship with your problem gambler, such as how to manage your family’s finances. And counseling can teach you effective techniques to resist the urge to gamble.