Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event where instances of strategy are discounted. It involves three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize.
In the United States, most adults and adolescents have placed a bet at one time or another. While most people who gamble do so without any problems, some individuals develop gambling disorder — as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — a condition that causes significant distress or impairment.
Problematic gambling often begins in childhood and may run in families. The behavior is more common in men and among those who have a low income, although anyone can be susceptible. Up to 5% of adolescents and young adults who gamble develop a gambling disorder.
The DSM-5 criteria for pathological gambling include repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, reduce or stop the behavior. Other symptoms include an increased desire to gamble, restlessness or irritability when trying to cut down on gambling, and thinking about it a lot. Gambling disorder can affect a person’s physical and emotional health, relationships with family and friends, work or school performance, and finances.
Many organisations offer support, assistance and counselling for people who have a problem with gambling. If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, it’s important to reach out to them. You can also join a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.