Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves placing money or other valuables on the outcome of a random event (such as the roll of dice, the spin of a roulette wheel or the result of a horse race). It includes all forms of betting and wagering, whether it is a lottery ticket, scratchcard, fruit machine bet or an online casino game. Regardless of the type of gambling, people need to consider their risk and prize before proceeding.

In addition to the obvious financial risks, gambling can have serious emotional and psychological consequences. It can affect a person’s health and wellbeing, their relationships, work performance and even their legal status. It can also lead to depression and suicide. Problem gambling can lead to homelessness, financial hardship, family breakdown, and other social problems. It can be a hidden addiction, affecting those closest to the gambler and impacting on their lives too.

There is a wide range of treatments and support services available for gambling disorders, including family therapy, group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and hypnotherapy. Some treatment programs are outpatient, while others are residential or inpatient. The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends seeking help if you think you have a problem.

Many people develop a gambling disorder as children or teenagers, but symptoms can start at any age. It seems that certain factors make some people more likely to be affected, such as a history of trauma and social inequality, especially in women. Some people are more susceptible to gambling than others, with men being more likely to become problem gamblers than women.

The prevalence of gambling has increased in recent years, partly because of the development of digital technology. It is now possible to access casinos and betting apps from a wide variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets. Many of these have been designed to mimic the look and feel of traditional casinos, making them more attractive to people who are used to gambling in a bricks-and-mortar setting.

The understanding of gambling as a mental health issue has undergone a profound change over time, with the recognition that some individuals have underlying psychological issues that lead to problematic gambling behaviours. This change has been reflected in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, called DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association. However, it has not yet been established that pathological gambling should be classified as an addiction.