Gambling involves placing something of value, such as money or a promise of money, at risk on an event that has some element of chance in the outcome. It can include games such as poker, horse races, dice, bingo, lottery tickets, slot machines and instant scratch-off tickets. The most common form of gambling is social: people play card and board games with friends for small amounts of money or participate in friendly sports betting pools, for example. A professional gambler makes their living through gambling, often by using strategy and skill to win over the long term.
Despite being a popular pastime, gambling is a dangerous activity and can lead to severe problems, including addiction. It is important to seek help if you feel you are having difficulty controlling your gambling behavior.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a disorder characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors that meet the criteria for pathological gambling according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Studies show that approximately 0.4-1.6% of the general population meet diagnostic criteria for PG. PG typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood and most people with PG are male. The majority of those with PG have problems with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as poker and blackjack, rather than nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms such as slot machines and bingo.
In addition to causing significant financial loss, gambling can also affect a person’s health and quality of life. It can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. It is important to seek treatment for underlying mood disorders if you have a history of gambling-related issues.