Gambling can be fun and even lucrative, but it can also be addictive and a big waste of time. Responsible gambling is all about knowing your limits, having a solid budget, and seeking help when needed. Whether you are betting on the next big sports event, playing a board game with friends, or buying lottery tickets with coworkers, it is important to set your budget and stick to it. It is also important to know your limit and when to walk away. Trying to chase losses will almost always lead to bigger losses.
For many people, the fun and potential rewards of gambling are enough to keep them going. However, for some people, it can become a serious problem that affects their family, friends, and work life. This is called compulsive or pathological gambling. The symptoms include: (1) a preoccupation with gambling, (2) lying to family members and/or therapists in order to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; (3) feelings of anxiety and depression; (4) attempting to recoup gambling losses by borrowing money or selling valuables; (5) jeopardizing a job, educational opportunity, or relationship as a result of gambling; and (6) spending more and more time on gambling activities, often at the expense of other worthwhile pursuits.  Additionally, gambling disorder is accompanied by an increased risk of illegal activities (forgery, embezzlement, and theft) to fund the habit.
Research has shown that individuals who suffer from gambling disorder can benefit from counseling and a structured treatment program. Counseling can help people understand their urges, think about ways to change their behaviors, and consider options for solving problems. Some individuals may also benefit from medications, which can treat underlying conditions like depression and anxiety. Ultimately, though, the decision to stop is always up to the individual.
A new category of behavioral addiction has recently been added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and it is known as gambling disorder. It is similar to other substance-related disorders in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and physiology. Gambling disorder is a serious psychiatric condition that can have devastating impacts on the gambler and his/her family.
Gambling has both positive and negative impacts on personal, interpersonal, and societal/community levels. Positive impacts include increased gambling revenues, economic growth, and tourism. Negative impacts include gambling-related costs on families and communities, including social distancing from relatives, inability to complete employment, and escalating debt that can lead to bankruptcy and homelessness. These impacts can be assessed using a health-related quality of life measure known as disability weights.