Gambling is the wagering of something of value, including money or property, with the consciousness of risk and hope of gain. It does not include business transactions based on contracts, such as the purchase of stocks and securities, or life or health insurance. While most people have gambled at some point, a small subset develops a gambling disorder that is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a psychological problem. These people experience significant distress or impairment in their lives and are unable to control their behavior.
Some people have a gambling disorder because of family history, depression, or other personal issues. Others start gambling as a way to relieve boredom or stress, such as after a long day at work or following an argument with a spouse. There are healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
A person’s relationship with gambling may become problematic when he or she begins to lie about how much he or she is gambling or hiding evidence of the gambling activity from others. Some people even begin to steal money or items of sentimental value to fund their gambling habit. Those with a gambling disorder often feel compelled to seek out help and support from friends, relatives, and professionals. Treatment options for those with gambling disorders may include outpatient, group therapy, and/or inpatient or residential treatment programs.