Gambling is risking something of value (such as money, property or reputation) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The hope is that the gambler will ‘win’, and gain something of equal value. Gambling can be fun, but it can also be addictive and lead to serious problems for some people. It can hurt family and social relationships, interfere with work or study, and cause financial difficulties including homelessness. It can even be a cause of depression and suicide. Harmful gambling can have a direct impact on physical health, as well as an indirect effect on mental health.
While many people think of casino tables and slot machines when they hear the word ‘gambling’, there are many other types of gambling. Buying lottery or scratch-off tickets, playing bingo, sports betting, and office pools are all forms of gambling. Some people gamble to make a living, and there is a long history of professional gambling. There is also a long history of legal prohibition of gambling, on moral or religious grounds, or to preserve public order in areas where it was linked to violent disputes or other criminal activity.
Despite the risks, many people enjoy gambling. For most, it is a harmless pastime that can provide an occasional thrill and a feeling of achievement. However, for a small number of people it can become dangerous and lead to significant problems. Problem gambling is not always easy to recognise, and those who have a problem may hide their gambling behaviour, lie to friends and family, or try to stop gambling by hiding money or credit cards. In extreme cases, they may attempt to commit suicide.
A combination of factors can contribute to harmful gambling, including personality traits, coping styles and beliefs about gambling. Some individuals are more prone to this behaviour because of mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Others are influenced by their environment and the availability of casinos or other gambling venues. In addition, some people are more susceptible to harmful gambling because of their financial circumstances – for example if they are in debt or struggling to pay their bills.
There are a number of ways to help someone with a gambling problem, but it is important to understand that it will take time and commitment. Some people will be able to control their addiction with self-help and support from family and friends, while others will need to seek professional treatment. Treatment options include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and family therapy.
CBT aims to change the way that a person thinks about gambling, and changes the beliefs that they have about it. For example, people with a gambling problem often have beliefs that they are more likely to win than others, or that certain rituals will bring them luck. CBT can address these beliefs and teach new coping strategies. Family therapy is also available, and it can be helpful in managing the effects of a loved one’s gambling on other family members, as well as their finances.