Gambling involves betting something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is not certain, and in which the stake is placed on the chance that it will result in a gain. It may take place in a variety of places, from casinos to gas stations to church halls and sporting events. It can also take place over the internet. People gamble for a range of reasons, from fun to winning big prizes. However, gambling can also have serious consequences for the individual, affecting health, relationships and employment. It can lead to debt and even homelessness, and has been linked to suicide. Over half the population engage in some form of gambling activity.
Many people believe that they can overcome a gambling addiction by themselves, but this is not always the case. Often the behaviour is a result of complex underlying issues such as depression, anxiety and family problems. It is therefore important to seek professional help. Some therapists specialise in treating gambling disorder, while others use a combination of approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapies.
There is a long history of legal prohibitions on gambling. These have been based on moral and religious grounds, to preserve public order where gambling has been associated with violent disputes, or to prevent people wasting their time and money on gambling when they could be doing other more productive activities. In the late 20th century, there has been a relaxation of laws against gambling. However, gambling is still a popular pastime and has become an integral part of the economy in many countries.
While some people do make a living from gambling, there has also been a rise in the number of people with gambling disorders. This is a serious problem with devastating effects on individuals, families and society. It is estimated that one in ten people who have a gambling problem are not seeking treatment.
The symptoms of gambling disorder are similar to those of other mental illnesses and include a lack of control, denial, poor motivation and impulsivity. People can start gambling at any age, and the problem can affect their physical and mental health, their work and study performance, their relationships and can lead to serious debt and even bankruptcy. People with gambling disorder can be at risk of suicide, and research has shown that it is common for suicides to be linked to gambling.
There are a number of ways to reduce the harm caused by gambling, from self-help to family and community support groups. Some people find it helpful to keep a diary, write down their thoughts or use a distraction to avoid the temptation to gamble. Other helpful strategies include setting a budget for gambling, seeking support from a friend or family member, attending a support group for family members such as Gamblers Anonymous, and postponing gambling to give the urge time to pass. If you are concerned that your gambling is causing harm, contact us to speak with one of our counsellors – it’s free, confidential and available 24/7.