Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which someone stakes something of value (usually money) on the outcome of an event with an element of chance and the potential to win a larger prize. It can take many forms, including lotteries, cards, bingo, dice, slot machines, scratch tickets, horse races, dog races, sporting events and more. People gamble for a variety of reasons, such as the excitement of winning, socializing with others, or as a way to relieve stress or boredom. It’s important to remember that gambling can have harmful effects, including financial, physical and emotional impacts on the person gambling as well as their family and friends.
Historically, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of an impulse-control disorder than an addiction. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, however, the APA moved pathological gambling into the addictions chapter. This may signal the emergence of a new consensus that, like substance abuse, pathological gambling should be classified as an addictive disorder.
Longitudinal research in this area is scarce, but is starting to emerge. Such studies are critical to understanding the relationship between impulsivity and gambling. They should also help identify whether a person’s risk-taking behavior in gambling is a function of underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. This is important because these disorders can both trigger gambling problems and make them worse. If you or a loved one suffers from an underlying mood disorder, seek professional treatment to resolve these issues and reduce your gambling urges.