Gambling is the staking of something of value upon an uncertain event whose result depends on chance or accident. This activity includes a wide range of games of chance or skill and also certain forms of insurance, including contracts for future contingent events and life, health, and property insurance (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

The prevalence of pathological gambling in the United States is 0.4-1.6% and has a higher incidence in men than in women. This disorder generally starts in adolescence or young adulthood and is often reported by individuals who have problems with nonstrategic, face-to-face forms of gambling, such as slot machines and bingo. It is important to recognize that the disorder can be concurrent with other disorders, such as depression or substance abuse, and can be made worse by stress and anxiety.

Symptoms of gambling problems include: (1) frequent urges to gamble; (2) significant loss of control or difficulty stopping; (3) a preoccupation with gambling; (4) lying to family members, therapists, and others about the extent of involvement; (5) relying on illegal activities, such as forgery, fraud, theft, embezzlement, or other crimes, to finance gambling; (6) losing a substantial relationship, job, or educational opportunity because of gambling; (7) betting a large amount on a single event or a large sum in order to recover a prior loss (“chasing losses”); and (8) jeopardizing one’s financial stability in an attempt to fund gambling (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

To reduce the risk of developing a problem with gambling, be sure to have a strong support system, set aside funds for entertainment only, don’t take out loans, and stay away from online betting sites. It is also helpful to strengthen your social network by joining a book club, sports team, or community service organization.