Gambling 101

Whether you’re buying a lottery ticket, playing online poker, or assembling your best fantasy sports team, gambling is an activity in which you risk money or other valuables on an outcome with an uncertain result. Most people lose more than they win, but some have the ability to control their impulsiveness and gamble responsibly.

Gambling has been a popular activity for centuries, and has been suppressed by law in many areas. However, the late 20th century saw a softening of attitudes towards gambling and relaxation of laws against it. Today, people from all backgrounds participate in gambling, often for fun and sometimes for profit. Problem gambling is found across the globe and affects people of every race, religion, age group, education level, and income level. It can also lead to suicide.

Throughout history, understanding of the adverse consequences of gambling has undergone substantial change. This evolution has mirrored, or perhaps even been stimulated by, the changes in our understanding of substance abuse and addiction. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling have shifted significantly since the publication of its various editions between 1980 and 1994. The current ten criterion reflect three clusters or dimensions: damage or disruption, loss of control, and dependence. Tolerance, withdrawal, and preoccupation with gambling are included under the category of dependence. However, a person is not considered dependent on gambling unless he or she meets all ten criteria. This is because the defining characteristic of pathological gambling is an underlying mental disorder.