How Gambling Affects Health, Work and Relationships


Gambling is any activity where people stake something of value (such as money, property or relationships) for the chance to win a prize. This can include activities like scratchcards, lotteries, casino games and even horse races. In some cases, skills can be used to improve the odds of winning, such as knowing how to play cards or handicapping a horse race.

While many people enjoy gambling, it can become dangerous when a person starts to lose control. Problem gambling can affect a person’s health, work performance and relationships. The good news is that help is available.

In what is regarded as a major breakthrough, the psychiatric community recently changed how it treats pathological gambling. In a move that will have far-reaching implications for people who are addicted to gambling, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder from a section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that deals with impulse-control disorders to one dedicated to addictions. The decision reflects a new understanding of the biology underlying addiction, and it has already changed how psychiatrists treat people who cannot stop gambling.

Gambling has been a popular past time for centuries. It can be found in casinos, racetracks and other recreational venues as well as online and on TV. There are also a number of state-run lotteries and sports pools that offer bettors the chance to win cash prizes. The total amount of money that is legally wagered each year worldwide is estimated to be about $10 trillion.

Although gambling is a risky and unpredictable activity, some individuals develop a problem that can have devastating effects on their personal and professional lives. In some cases, the behavior is so compulsive that it can interfere with daily functioning and cause serious problems in family, friends and the workplace. While there is no cure for pathological gambling, counseling and other treatments can help people gain control of their gambling and learn healthier ways to deal with stress.

A person who has a problem with gambling may try to hide their spending habits or lie about how much they gamble. Those with severe gambling problems may need to seek inpatient or residential treatment programs.

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy for treating problem gambling. Behavioral treatments involve learning to resist the urge to gamble and confronting irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of losses or near misses (two out of three cherries on a slot machine) is a sign of imminent success. In addition to these behavioral therapies, some medications are being studied as possible treatments for gambling disorders. However, until we understand better what causes these behaviors, there will be limited success in developing effective treatments. In the meantime, it’s important for families and friends of those with a problem to be supportive and encourage them to seek help. In addition, many organizations provide support, assistance and counselling for those affected by gambling.