Gambling is an activity where people bet money, usually on a sporting or other event, with the outcome determined by random chance. There are many different forms of gambling, including casino games and online betting.
There are various reasons people gamble, but the main one is that it gives you a sense of control over the outcome. It also provides an ego boost, and it can help you socialise with other players.
A person can have a problem with gambling if they find themselves unable to stop. It can cause problems in their social life, work and family. It can also be a threat to their mental health.
The DSM-5 defines gambling disorder as a behavioural addiction that results in significant negative consequences. It is similar to substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and treatment.
People who gamble for financial reasons have a greater risk of developing a problem than those who do not. This is because there are more opportunities for them to win large amounts of money, and they are often more willing to risk their own cash if they think they have a good chance of winning.
Other reasons include the feeling of euphoria, which is triggered by the reward system in the brain. The euphoria also has a psychological component, as people can feel a sense of pleasure and accomplishment, which helps them cope with stress or anxiety.
Harms and risks associated with gambling can be caused by a range of factors, but it is most important that you understand how to identify harms, so you can seek appropriate treatment. The most common and serious gambling related harms are listed below:
First experience of harm
This includes the initial impact of a person’s engagement with gambling (e.g. the initial decision to participate in gambling, a positive or negative response to a gambling environment, or the withdrawal of a person’s funds), through to those harms that continue (or emerge) even if the person’s engagement with gambling ceases.
Emotional and psychological distress from gambling was also reported as a primary and secondary or further order harm. It was a widespread and pervasive experience across the data, and often exacerbated by other harms.
Shame and stigma were the most common types of emotional and psychological distress experienced by people who gambled, and these were frequently accompanied by suicidal ideation or attempts. They were also strongly linked with relationship breakdowns and financial harms.
Relationship and family breakdowns were a major legacy impact from gambling, often creating ongoing decrements to a person’s health and well-being, as well as contributing to emotional or psychological distress. These impacts were often a consequence of a person’s underlying vulnerabilities, such as poor financial or credit ratings and low levels of trust in others.
In addition to emotional and psychological distress, gambling can lead to physical health harms such as increased risk of stroke or heart disease. These can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life and are a concern for public health.