Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves risking money or something of value in an attempt to predict the outcome of a game of chance, such as betting on a football match or playing a scratchcard. It is most commonly practiced in casinos, but can also take place online, on television, or in private settings such as homes. Some forms of gambling are legal, others are not.

People who gamble can experience psychological and social problems, such as depression, anxiety, and poor family functioning. Problem gambling can also lead to debt, which can have serious consequences for families and individuals. If you are worried about your or someone else’s gambling habits, speak to a debt adviser at StepChange for free and confidential advice.

This article reviews the research on disordered gambling, a range of behavior that spans from behaviors that are at risk for developing more serious problems (subclinical) to those that meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) diagnosable criteria for pathological gambling (PG). Those with PG often report difficulties with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo. The onset of PG is usually during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to be recurrent.

While gambling offers the possibility of large rewards, the odds are that you will lose some money. If you are planning to gamble, start with a fixed amount that you are prepared to lose and leave when you reach your time limit, whether you are winning or losing. Try to find healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.