Gambling involves risking something of value on an event involving chance in the hope of winning more money or other prizes. It includes all forms of betting, from scratchcards and fruit machines to horse racing and sports bets.
Despite the fact that gambling is considered to be a recreational activity, it can lead to serious financial, emotional and psychological problems. People may start to gamble when they are desperate for money or trying to escape from a painful life situation. This can be especially dangerous if the person is already experiencing other mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
A person can be addicted to gambling even if they don’t lose large amounts of money. They can still be compulsive and have other symptoms of a problem such as lying, hiding or spending more time gambling than they intended to. They can also have difficulty thinking rationally about their choices and can often blame others for their behaviour.
It’s important to recognise the signs of a gambling problem so that you can get help before it becomes too late. It’s also helpful to understand what makes gambling so addictive so that you can take steps to avoid it.
The first step is to seek professional support for yourself or someone close to you. This could be a doctor, a counsellor or a support group. Having someone to talk to can help you overcome your problems and feel less alone. It can also be a good idea to seek help from a specialist service such as an inpatient or residential rehab program.
In recent years, research into gambling has shifted from a medical perspective to a social science perspective. As a result, there is now more evidence to suggest that people can become addicted to gambling in the same way that they can be addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, in May this year the psychiatric community made what is widely regarded as a landmark decision when it moved pathological gambling from the ‘impulse control disorder’ section of the DSM to the addictions chapter.
Research has shown that there is no single definition of harm when it comes to gambling. The most commonly used measures of harm in gambling are either problem gambling diagnostic criteria or behavioural symptoms. However, these are limited in scope and do not account for all types of harm associated with gambling.
One of the main causes of gambling-related harm is the erosion of savings or other financial resources that could be used for other discretionary, but not luxury, items such as family outings and involvement in artistic, cultural, sporting or educational activities. Another is the deterioration of relationships and the impact of this on those around the person.
Other harms include the escalation of debt and other financial obligations, the loss of employment and the failure to meet essential living expenses such as rent or utilities. Finally, there are the legacy and intergenerational harms which include the effects of gambling on the health and wellbeing of a family unit or a community.