The Dangers of Gambling

The Dangers of Gambling

A gambling habit can be devastating to both your finances and your relationships. In addition to being the root of many serious problems, it can also lead to a variety of legal issues and even criminal charges.

Gambling is any activity where you risk something of value for the chance of winning more. It can include betting on sports games, buying scratch-off tickets, playing online poker or casino games, or making a wager with friends. It can be as simple as putting a dollar in a slot machine or as complex as placing a spread bet on a baseball game. What all these activities have in common is that you are betting money against a known outcome – if you win, you make more money; if you lose, you lose the money you invested.

The roots of gambling go back to ancient times. The Greeks used knucklebones, called astragals, to gamble, and these bones are thought to be the precursors of dice. The Romans and Egyptians also gambled, often for very high stakes, on events, such as the outcome of a battle or a race. They would also bet on events in the future, such as when a ship might sail or a pyramid would crumble.

In modern times, there are a wide variety of legal forms of gambling available in the United States and around the world. The most common is lotteries, which are run by state governments and can offer substantial jackpot prizes. Other types of legal gambling include horse races, dog or greyhound racing, and sports betting. In addition, some people engage in business gambling, where they set odds on a particular event and charge a fee to participants.

Approximately 2.5 million U.S. adults (1%) meet the criteria for pathological gambling, and an additional 5-8 million (2-3%) have mild or moderate gambling disorders. People in this group may not fit the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, but they do exhibit problematic gambling behavior and are at increased risk of developing more severe problems.

Some people develop gambling problems in their youth. Adolescents can exhibit the same types of problem gambling as adults, but they are more likely to do so because their brains are still maturing. In fact, scientific research shows that the human brain does not fully mature until about age 25.

If someone you love is struggling with a gambling addiction, reach out for help. Professional counseling can help you cope with the impact of a loved one’s gambling and provide tools for managing family finances and relationships. Other helpful resources include family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling. Ultimately, the best way to help someone with a gambling addiction is to stop him or her from gambling altogether. This can be challenging, but it is an important step in reducing the risk of further problems. It is also a good idea to teach the person healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.