Gambling and Gambling Disorders

Gambling is a global activity in which individuals place value bets on events governed at least partially by chance in order to win something else of value – known as gambling or wagers. Wagers can take many forms, from lotteries and horse races through card games and lotteries – even sports gambling legal in many European, Australian, South American, African and Asian nations (sports gambling) where betting occurs on soccer matches or basketball games using organized pools (sports gambling). Gambling often leads to criminal behavior such as fraud or embezzlement – yet has also been associated with negative health impacts as a result of its addictive qualities.

Gambling has long been an international societal activity, and is associated with both positive and negative social and economic consequences. Gambling can lead to both personal financial ruin and behavioral problems such as substance abuse. Furthermore, research indicates that some individuals may be genetically predisposed towards thrill-seeking behaviour and lack of impulse control, with gambling triggering brain changes such as dopamine release which produces feelings of excitement and reward.

People with a history of gambling problems are at an increased risk for developing more serious issues with age, such as relationships, work, education and housing issues. Some risks can be reduced through education about the dangers associated with gambling; screening and prevention programs; as well as helping those experiencing difficulties find treatment when necessary.

Medical professionals are beginning to recognize the potential for pathological gambling to be classified as an addictive disorder and recommend that those engaging in such behaviors be assessed in primary care settings for evaluation. However, the relative importance of doing this largely depends on its health-related risks and benefits.

Gambling has long been recognized as an international commercial industry and world-wide pastime; yet its psychological aspects remain neglected. American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-3 was first published in 1980 without gambling disorders being explicitly named, however a revision to this manual in 1987 highlighted their similarity, specifically by categorizing gambling addiction with substance use disorder as one disorder. Critics have critiqued the DSM criteria for gambling addiction due to their one-dimensionality, focus on external consequences, and middle-class bias (Lesieur 1984). These criticisms emphasize the need for further study into gambling addiction and its treatment. Thankfully, such studies are already taking place. Studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine brain activity among people engaging in active gambling have used various techniques, including MRI and other research tools, to explore causes and identify new treatments to combat pathological gambling and prevent its emergence. Additional research must also assess the effectiveness of screening strategies and interventions against gambling disorders as well as potential health impacts of various forms of gambling.