Gambling involves betting something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. It can be done in many ways, including by placing a bet on sports events, horse races or the lottery. It has been around for thousands of years and can be very addictive. It can also have serious health consequences, especially for those with underlying mood disorders.
Problem gambling causes many negative impacts on people and their families. These impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and society/community levels (Fig. 1). The personal and interpersonal level impacts are mostly non-monetary, such as the psychological burden of compulsive gambling or the loss of family or social life. At the society/community level, problems caused by gambling can be seen in increased debt and financial strain. In extreme cases, this can lead to homelessness and bankruptcy.
People who have a problem with gambling often experience feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression. They may feel helpless and powerless, which can result in suicidal thoughts. They may also lie to family members, therapists or others in order to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling. They may even steal money, commit forgery or embezzlement to finance their gambling habit. They may lose their job or educational or career opportunities as a result of their addiction. In addition, they can ruin their relationships, causing significant distress for those closest to them.
In some cases, a gambling problem develops as a result of other mental health problems or substance abuse. A person who has a mood disorder like depression, for example, is more likely to develop a pathological gambling disorder than someone who does not. In fact, up to 50% of pathological gamblers have a lifetime history of mood disorders, and depression is usually found to precede gambling problems.
Those who are unable to control their gambling tend to spend more time on the activity and make bigger bets. They also spend more on gambling-related products, such as slot machines and pokies. These products are designed to keep people gambling, with flashing lights and misleading happy music that can disguise a losing streak.
If you have a problem with gambling, it is important to seek treatment. Whether you are a casual gambler who only occasionally bets on sports, or a compulsive gambler who has lost everything, it is possible to break the cycle. Many people have been successful in regaining their lives after a diagnosis and treatment. The first step is realizing that there is a problem, which can be very difficult for those who have incurred huge debts or ruined their relationships as a result of their addiction. If you have a problem, it is crucial to see a therapist as soon as possible. You can get matched with a therapist through our online service, and you could start getting help within 48 hours.