Gambling is a risky activity whereby you place something of value (money, goods, services) on the outcome of a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. While gambling can provide enjoyable experiences, it can also have negative effects on people’s lives and wellbeing. Some people are more susceptible to harmful gambling than others. This can be due to a variety of reasons including mood disorders, coping styles, social learning and beliefs.
Harms from gambling are widespread and can affect the health, well-being and relationships of individuals, families and communities. Harms from gambling occur in people of all ages, races, genders and socioeconomic status. Harms from gambling often co-exist with other harmful behaviours and reduced health states, such as alcohol use, depression and poor eating habits.
Despite the widespread recognition of harms associated with gambling, the research and policy environment around this issue is challenging. This is because there is no universally agreed upon definition of gambling harm and many measures that are used to assess harm are based on proxy indicators, rather than diagnostic criteria. This limits the validity and reliability of gambling harm measurement.
A major limitation is that the research has focused on studying gambling harms from a behavioural perspective. While behavioural symptoms do have a significant relationship with gambling harms, they are largely proxies and fail to capture the complex interplay between risk taking and other aspects of a person’s life. Further, a person’s behavioural symptoms may not be stable over time and can be affected by a variety of factors, such as mood disorders, impulsivity and stress.
The main reason people gamble is to try and win money, which they can then use to buy things or pay bills. However, people gamble for a number of other reasons as well, such as to change their moods, socialize with friends or take a break from work. Many people find that they feel a sense of euphoria when they gamble, and this can lead to addiction.
Changing the way you think about gambling can help you stop the cycle of harms. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can look at your beliefs and coping strategies, such as the gambler’s fallacy, which is when you believe you’re more likely to win than you really are or that you will be able to recover your losses if you just play a little longer.
The CBT approach can be useful in reducing harmful gambling, but it’s important to seek support if you need it. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, and consider calling a helpline or attending a self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Also, try to stay physically active and spend more time with friends. Studies have shown that physical activity can reduce your urges to gamble and improve your mood, so try doing more of it!