Gambling Addiction


Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the intention of winning. It is contrasted with skillful activities that reduce the probability of losing, such as playing card games, shooting basketballs into a net or betting on horse races (or football accumulators). The term is also used to refer to speculative activity such as buying lottery or scratch-card tickets. Although many people gamble for fun, it is possible for gambling to become a problem and cause harm to the person involved and their family. This is especially true if the gambling interferes with work or other important aspects of life.

Gamblers typically use a variety of strategies to maintain their gambling behavior, and these strategies are related to the nature of the gambling activity. Some common strategies include denying the harm caused by gambling, minimising the amount of money spent on it and hiding evidence of gambling activities. Some people also use credit cards to fund their gambling, which can lead to mounting debt and financial problems.

There is a broad consensus that the risky and compulsive nature of gambling behavior is primarily the result of impulsiveness. However, data do not systematically address how sensation-and novelty-seeking and other dimensions of impulse control (e.g., arousal, negative emotionality) interact to affect the initiation and progression of gambling behaviors. Moreover, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support the idea that gambling is addictive in the same way that substances are.

Despite the lack of evidence for addiction, some experts have argued that gambling is similar to substance abuse in that it causes a negative impact on one’s functioning and relationships, and is often accompanied by an inability to stop gambling even when faced with increasing losses. This argument was given credence when the DSM-III criteria were reworded in 1987 to explicitly mention this comparison, and to emphasize that pathological gambling should be treated like substance dependence.

The DSM-IV criteria are criticized for their unidimensionality, their emphasis on external consequences and middle-class bias (Lesieur, 1984). In addition, there is little empirical support that the DSM-IV criteria accurately identify individuals who progress toward a pathological state or who are in remission from a pathological gambling disorder.

Nevertheless, gambling is an enduring human activity. It is estimated that most people have gambled at some time in their lives, and it is a popular pastime in countries around the world. Gambling can be a form of entertainment, an outlet for stress and anxiety or even a way to make money. But, if it becomes problematic then it is important to seek help. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the effective treatments available for gambling problems and also find out about the resources that are available locally. This will be useful information when talking to a friend or relative who has a gambling problem. You may find that they are more open to receiving help once they realise the harm that their gambling is causing them.

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