Gambling As a Problem


Gambling is a popular leisure activity and many people do it for fun, excitement, to socialise or as an escape from boredom or worries. However, for some it becomes a serious problem affecting their lives and those of their family and friends. Problem gambling can damage relationships, lead to financial strain, health problems and even homelessness. It can also impact on work performance and result in loss of employment. It is the only behavioural addiction formally recognised by the American Psychiatric Association, appearing in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013.

There are a number of different types of gambling, including casino games, sports betting and horse racing. These activities can have a negative impact on individuals’ health, wellbeing and quality of life, but there are also ways that you can reduce your risk of gambling-related harm. The most important thing is to set yourself realistic expectations and recognise that the odds are you will lose money when you gamble. This will help you to control your spending and avoid chasing losses.

In addition, it is important to consider your gambling habits and try to find healthier ways to cope with unpleasant feelings such as boredom or stress. For example, you can spend time with friends who do not gamble or you could try taking up a new hobby or practice relaxation techniques. It is also helpful to seek help for any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to your gambling problems.

While some people who gamble do not develop a problem, for others it can become an addiction causing significant problems in their personal and professional lives. Problem gambling can be debilitating and if not addressed quickly can cause bankruptcy, family break-ups, unemployment, homelessness, mental illness, relationship issues, substance use disorders and even suicide. It is estimated that more than 400 people kill themselves each year because of problem gambling.

Despite the widespread availability of online gambling sites, most people still gamble in person, whether it be at their local pub, bookmaker or casino. People who are addicted to gambling can often justify their actions, claiming they need to gamble in order to get their fix and keep their addiction under control. They will often say things like “I need this one last bet”, “Just this once won’t hurt.”

A lot of people who struggle with gambling do not get the support they need from family or friends. For this reason, it is important for families of someone with a gambling problem to reach out and seek help themselves. A good place to start is with a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous.

Research on gambling is limited, but studies that focus on the costs and benefits of gambling can help guide public health policy decisions. Traditionally, researchers have largely ignored social impacts in favor of measuring economic costs and benefits, as these are easy to quantify. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a holistic approach to gambling is needed.