Gambling involves risking something of value (money or possessions) in order to predict an outcome involving chance. People may gamble by playing card games, fruit machines, betting on horse or greyhound races or football accumulators or by speculating on business or stock markets. People can also gamble in casinos and other licensed establishments and by online and mobile phone gambling.
People can experience a range of harmful effects from gambling, including addiction, debt and loss of employment, and it can also damage relationships with family and friends. In some cases, it can lead to serious health issues and even death. For many people, gambling can be a fun and enjoyable form of entertainment, but when it starts to take over it can lose its appeal and it is important to recognise the warning signs.
There is a growing body of research into the psychological factors that influence problem gambling, and a number of assessment tools have been developed to help identify those who may be at risk. Some people have a strong desire to win and can’t control their behaviour, which is known as compulsive gambling.
In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction; however, in what is widely viewed as a landmark decision, the APA moved pathological gambling into the category of impulse-control disorders alongside kleptomania and pyromania in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This move, which reflects a greater understanding of the biology of addiction, has significant implications for how psychiatrists treat problem gamblers.