Gambling is a type of betting where people risk something valuable in order to win a prize. This can be money, items or even their time. It can happen at casinos, races, games of chance and even online.
In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a type of impulse control disorder. It was a fuzzy label, but it meant that the illness was grouped with others like kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (throwing things). However, in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the APA has moved pathological gambling into a new category on behavioral addictions. This change reflects research showing that gambling disorders are similar to substance-related addictions in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and physiology.
There is currently no robust, internationally agreed-upon definition of harm related to gambling. This limited understanding, along with the use of inappropriate proxy measures of harm, has hampered efforts to address gambling harm from a public health perspective. These measures are usually based on gambling behaviour prevalence measures or unsystematic explorations of harm within the context of specific research studies. These approaches lack content validity and construct validity.
A lot of people enjoy gambling as a way to socialize and have fun with friends, but it can also lead to serious problems. In fact, there is a very strong link between gambling and mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Gambling can also cause financial problems, such as debt. If you’re worried about gambling and your finances, you can speak to a free debt advisor at StepChange.
Harms from gambling can affect individuals, families and communities. They can include a range of negative effects on well-being, including:
Gambling is an addictive activity and it can be difficult to know when it’s taking over your life. If you’re spending more than you can afford, if you’re hiding your gambling or lying about it to your family and friends, or if you’re thinking of ways to make your money back, it’s time to stop.
Always gamble with money you can afford to lose, and never chase your losses. Thinking you’re due for a lucky streak or can recoup your lost money is called the “gambler’s fallacy.” It never works and often leads to bigger losses. Set money and time limits before you start playing, and stick to them. If you start losing, don’t keep going – it’s not worth the stress and damage it can do to your mental health.