Gambling is the risking of something of value (money, property or assets) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance, such as on the results of a lottery, a casino game, or sports events. Some gambling games are based on skill, such as poker or blackjack; others involve only luck, such as dice or playing cards. Many people gamble as a pastime or social activity, purchasing lottery tickets, betting on horse races and sporting events, or using the pokies. Gambling can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but some people develop an addiction to the activity.
Problem gambling is an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania and pyromania. Until recently, the psychiatric community has viewed it as a compulsion rather than an addiction, but in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the APA moved pathological gambling into the chapter on addictions, along with pyromania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).
If you or someone close to you has a gambling addiction, seek help. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, can provide invaluable guidance. If you have financial responsibilities, consider setting boundaries in managing money and limiting access to credit. Moreover, it is important to seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may trigger or worsen gambling problems (such as depression or stress). Finally, consider seeking counseling for yourself or your loved one to learn how to confront irrational beliefs and behaviors.