What is Gambling?


Gambling is an activity in which someone risks something of value (money, possessions, or life) on an uncertain event with the intent of gaining something else of value. It can involve any kind of wager, from a bet on a game of marbles to a sophisticated casino gamble. The amount of money that is risked varies from one individual to another, as does the amount of effort that goes into gambling. Gambling is often associated with feelings of excitement and anticipation. It can also be a way for people to escape from their problems and stresses.

Although gambling is a popular and lucrative business, it can cause serious harm to individuals’ physical and psychological health and their relationships with others. It can also damage their work and study performance, lead to financial ruin and even result in homelessness. Problem gambling is very common, affecting around half the population at some point in their lives. It can be difficult for family members to recognise when someone has a problem, as they may attempt to hide their gambling or lie about it.

Those who have a gambling problem often deny that they have a problem, and many try to minimise their involvement by hiding their betting and lying about how much they’ve won. Some even go to extreme lengths to cover up their behaviour, including cutting off communication with family and friends.

In the past, gambling has been described as a form of addiction and as a type of mental illness, but the term ‘gambling disorder’ was dropped from the DSM-IV in 1987. There is now a consensus that pathological gambling is a clinically significant problem, and it shares many features with substance abuse and other forms of addiction.

As with other addictive behaviours, gambling can overstimulate the brain’s reward system, causing a person to need more and more to feel satisfied. This can occur in a variety of ways, such as through the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or through gambling.

Research suggests that gambling may be an attempt to fulfil basic human needs, such as a sense of belonging, status, or power. Casinos promote a sense of specialness and status, and some people become addicted to gambling as a means of feeling important or valued.

While the root causes of gambling are complex, it is widely agreed that it involves a combination of factors such as: impulsiveness, sensation- and novelty-seeking, and lack of impulse control. The DSM-IV definition of addiction, as well as many treatment studies, suggest that gamblers’ lack of impulse control leads to recreational interest, diminished mathematical skills, poor judgment, and cognitive distortions. It is also important to note that gambling can be a socially acceptable pastime in some societies, and there are many gambling organisations which offer support, assistance and counselling for those with a problem. These services can help people to reclaim their lives and overcome gambling related difficulties. They can also provide education to prevent the development of gambling problems in the first place.