Gambling, also called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is an impulse control disorder that affects the ability to make healthy choices. People who have a gambling disorder may gamble to escape from problems in their lives or for the thrill of winning money. They are often unable to stop gambling even when it causes financial, emotional and personal distress.
The term ‘gambling’ is most commonly used to describe activities that involve a random outcome and no skill (for example, lotteries or horse races). But gambling can also refer to activities that use skills such as knowledge of game strategies or the abilities of horses and jockeys (and thus reduce the probability of a win) (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
It is important for individuals who have problems with gambling to seek help, even though they might feel embarrassed or ashamed. It is also important for family and friends of problem gamblers to get support. Family members can find solace in talking to a trusted friend or a trained counsellor. They can also take steps to reduce the risk of gambling by controlling their finances and reducing access to gambling venues.
Longitudinal studies of gambling are needed to better understand the causes and prevention of pathological gambling. However, longitudinal research in gambling has been limited by the difficulty of obtaining funding for multiyear studies and the challenge of maintaining research team continuity over time periods. Moreover, different research scientists, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians, and public policy makers frame questions about gambling differently, depending on their disciplinary training, experience, world view, and interests.