Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the hope of gaining something of value in return. While it often involves money, it can also involve merchandise, services, or even real estate. It is illegal in some places, and it can have serious consequences for the gambler. It can affect the gambler’s health, relationships, work or school performance and their social standing. In some cases it can even lead to suicide. Problem gambling can occur in people of every race, religion and income level. It can affect men and women, the young and the old, and it can happen in small towns and big cities.

Problem gambling can be difficult to detect, especially when it is hidden from friends and family. In addition, the person with a gambling disorder may hide evidence of their gambling and lie about how much they spend or lose. Eventually they will begin to feel compelled to keep gambling, no matter how much harm it causes. This can cause stress, depression and anxiety and can interfere with their daily life. It can also lead to a cycle of debt and bankruptcy. Ultimately, this can lead to isolation and loneliness for the gambler.

People can develop a gambling disorder for many reasons, from the excitement of winning to the dream of becoming rich. They can also be influenced by a desire to escape from everyday problems and stresses. For example, some people use gambling as a way to relieve boredom or the threat of unemployment. Others use it to escape from the pressure of caring for a sick family member or as a way to avoid paying bills. It can also be a way to fill a need for belonging and status. Casinos have built their reputation on fostering this sense of status among wealthy clients.

Despite the fact that gambling does not involve ingesting chemical substances, it can still have the same effect as drugs on the brain. It can change the brain’s chemistry and increase dopamine levels. This increase can make the gambler want to gamble more and more to experience the same pleasure.

The concept of addiction to gambling has been controversial. The DSM-III criteria for gambling disorder were criticized for their unidimensionality, emphasis on external consequences, and middle-class bias (Lesieur, 1984). However, since the revision of the DSM-III in 1987, there has been increased recognition of the similarity between pathological gambling and substance dependence. This has been reinforced by the emphasis placed on gambling and drug addiction in the new DSM-IV. Several models and theories have been advanced to explain pathological gambling, including behavioral-environmental, a general theory of addictions, the reward deficiency syndrome, and the biopsychosocial model.