Gambling is a form of entertainment where people stake something valuable (money, property, assets or possessions) for the chance to win a prize. It can be done in many different ways such as betting on a horse race, playing bingo or buying a lottery ticket. It can be a fun and social activity, but it is important to know the risks involved.
In the past, psychiatric professionals have not viewed pathological gambling as an addiction in the same way that they have viewed substance use disorders like alcohol and drugs. However, the psychiatric community has recognised that in some cases gambling can become compulsive and lead to serious problems. The new diagnosis of problem gambling is an attempt to recognise this.
The research highlighted that harm experienced by people who gamble occurs in a wide variety of domains within the person’s life. This was reflected in the initial identification of six different thematic categories of harm: financial harms, harms relating to relationships, emotional or psychological harms, impacts on work, study or economic activities and criminal acts. Additional analysis of data relating to people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups and indigenous communities identified a further category of harm: cultural harms.
Many people who have a gambling problem begin to gamble in order to relieve negative emotions, such as stress or boredom. They also often gamble in an attempt to experience feelings of euphoria, which is linked to the brain’s reward system. However, there are healthier and safer ways to self-soothe unpleasant feelings and to alleviate boredom, such as exercise, spending time with friends who do not gamble or trying new hobbies.
Some of the more serious forms of gambling harm involve risking a person’s financial security, such as losing money or a home. This can be especially difficult to overcome if the person has children or other dependents who depend on them for income.
It is crucial to make sure that you have sufficient financial resources to meet your obligations. This means limiting the amount of money you spend on gambling and making sure that your bank accounts are protected. It is also important to avoid taking on debt, or at least not allow it to grow out of control. Also, don’t chase your losses by thinking that you are due for a big win or will somehow get your money back – this is called the “gambler’s fallacy”. In fact, chasing your losses can make them even worse. If you are having trouble with gambling, try talking to a counsellor or getting help from a support group like Gamblers Anonymous. If you are unable to stop gambling, there are residential and inpatient treatment and recovery programs available. The Responsible Gambling Council has information and advice on how to gamble responsibly. The website is free, confidential and available 24/7. You can also call their helpline on 1300 777 177. This service is staffed by trained and experienced gambling counsellors.