Gambling involves placing something of value (typically money) at risk on an event with a chance of winning a larger prize. This can be done in many different ways such as placing a bet on a football team to win, purchasing a scratchcard or playing slots. It’s important to remember that gambling is a game of chance, where you have a 1 in 3 chance of losing money.
A subset of individuals develop a serious problem with their gambling, known as pathological gambling (PG). The reclassification of PG into an addictive disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is based on its high comorbidity with other addictions and the significant harm that PG causes to individuals, families, relationships and communities. PG tends to develop in adolescence or young adulthood and the proportion of men to women with a PG diagnosis is approximately 2:1.
People often start gambling for fun and enjoyment but this can quickly turn into an addictive activity. The most vulnerable groups are those with low incomes who have more to lose and a tendency to develop a gambling disorder, young people and men.
If a loved one is struggling with a gambling problem, it’s essential to seek support. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and confused about how to help. You can start by educating yourself about effective treatment for gambling problems, and setting financial boundaries. It’s also important to check out local resources that are available to help.