The Dangers of Gambling
Gambling is an activity where people stake something of value (such as money) on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. There are many different types of gambling such as lottery tickets, sports betting and casino games. People who gamble can experience a range of harms including physical, psychological and social. Harms can include financial hardship, family breakdown, poor performance at work or study and criminal activity. It can also cause problems with health, such as depression, anxiety and stress-related illness. There are also social costs associated with gambling, such as lost productivity and the negative impact on relationships.
For those who are prone to gambling, it’s important to recognise the warning signs and take steps to curb the behaviour. This could involve talking openly about the problem with a trusted friend or professional counsellor. Other strategies may include reducing risk factors, such as using credit cards, taking out loans and carrying large amounts of cash. Avoiding gambling venues and finding other ways to socialise can help, as can spending time in nature, exercising, reading or taking up a hobby. It’s also important not to chase losses, as the urge to try and recoup money already spent can be very strong. The “gambler’s fallacy” is when people start to believe that they’re due for a win and can regain their losses by continuing to gamble. This thinking is a recipe for disaster.
It’s also vital to recognise the signs of problem gambling in others. This includes downplaying or lying about gambling behaviour, asking loved ones for money to gamble or replacing lost money and relying on other sources of income to fund their habit. Problem gambling can also damage personal relationships and lead to feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment. Some people are at greater risk of developing a gambling problem because of personality traits or coexisting mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
Those struggling with gambling can find it difficult to break the habit, especially if they have built a life around gambling and have strong associations with the activity. It’s often the case that they think that gambling makes them happier, but this illusion can be shattered when finances become unmanageable. It’s also easy to feel triggered into gambling again, such as when they pass a TAB or casino on their commute home or when a friend invites them to a casino.
To reduce the chance of a relapse, it’s important to strengthen your support network and replace gambling with more healthy activities. This might mean joining a book club or sports team, taking up an education course or volunteering. Alternatively, consider a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous which follows a 12-step model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also online forums for people who want to quit gambling, as well as a number of self-help books. If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, seek legal advice and consider changing your will so that future inheritance will not be used to fund their gambling habit.