What is Gambling and How Can it Affect You?


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The prize may be money, goods, or services. The game of gambling is also a major industry, with the global legal market worth an estimated $335 billion in 2009. Gambling is often conducted for fun or for social interaction, but it can become an addiction that leads to serious problems.

The most common form of gambling is placing a bet or stake on the outcome of an event, such as a sports game, a lottery drawing, or a casino game. Other forms of gambling include card games, such as poker, blackjack, or spades, and collectibles such as Magic: The Gathering cards or Pogs, where players place bets using small discs or trading cards. In some cases, individuals can even wager objects that have a nominal value but do not represent real currency, such as marbles or tokens from a board game like Monopoly.

People who are addicted to gambling have a compulsive behavior characterized by an urge to gamble, as well as negative consequences that interfere with their daily life. These consequences can be significant and can include financial loss, debt, and strained or broken relationships. People who have a gambling disorder are also likely to have other mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can trigger and make worse the impulse to gamble.

If you suspect that someone you know has a problem with gambling, it is important to speak up and encourage them to seek help. The sooner a person with gambling addiction gets treatment, the more likely they are to recover and regain control of their lives. It is also important to be supportive without being judgmental, and to encourage the person to reach out to support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous.

A person who has a gambling problem may show many symptoms, including:

Feeling the need to gamble more and more frequently to experience the same level of pleasure or excitement (tolerance). Needing to bet larger amounts of money or materials to win (addiction). Increasingly losing control over one’s spending, borrowing, or saving decisions. Spending more time gambling than on family, work, or other activities. Trying to win back losses by gambling more and more money or valuables (chasing).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorder, but several types of psychotherapy can be effective. These techniques, called cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT for gambling addiction, focus on changing unhealthy emotions and behaviors. A therapist can teach you how to recognize and fight gambling urges, as well as address any other mental health conditions that may be contributing to your problem. To get started, take the BetterHelp assessment and get matched with a licensed therapist in as little as 48 hours. You can also call a hotline or find an online support group for gambling disorder. It is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, but it takes tremendous strength and courage to admit you have a problem.