The Dangers of Gambling

Gambling is a popular activity with a wide range of benefits and costs. It can be fun and social, help develop mental skills, or simply provide an opportunity to try something new. However, gambling can also be dangerous if it becomes an addiction. For some people, it can affect their finances, health, work and relationships. The good news is that there are effective treatments for gambling addiction.

Gambling includes activities like playing card games like poker or blackjack with friends in a private setting, betting on sports events such as football games or horse races, and placing bets on random events such as the flipping of a coin. It can also include activities that are illegal in some areas, such as stealing or engaging in prostitution. However, the most dangerous form of gambling is pathological gambling. It is an impulse control disorder that is classified as a substance-related or addictive disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Pathological gambling used to be regarded as a compulsion, but it has now been recognised as an addiction akin to drug addiction.

In order to overcome their urges, many gamblers use cognitive-behavior therapy, which teaches them to confront their irrational beliefs and behaviours. For example, people who are addicted to gambling often think that a series of losses means they will be ‘due for a win’, and believe that the odds of winning are higher when they play a certain game, wear a lucky shirt or place a bet with a specific amount. They may also invest time and money to’make up for past losses’.

A big reason why gambling can be addictive is that it can satisfy a variety of needs at the same time, including thrill seeking and the need for status and belonging. In addition, it is an easy way to relieve boredom and unpleasant emotions like anxiety, such as fear or sadness. Using gambling as a way to self-soothe or escape can be dangerous and should be replaced by healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, practicing relaxation techniques or taking up a new hobby.

While most of the impacts of gambling can be seen at the personal and interpersonal levels, there are also external impacts that influence communities/society. These impacts can be categorized as financial, labor and health/wellness and vary from one community to another.

Gambling-related financial impacts can include changes in wealth and financial well-being, effects on the economy and growth, changes in infrastructure costs or values and job gains and losses. The labor and health/wellness impacts can be summed up as changes in productivity, absenteeism and reduced performance at the workplace. The community/society level impacts can be non-monetary, such as the impact on quality of life, but they are less studied. This is partly because most research on the impacts of gambling focuses on casino impacts. This is a shame, because the social and psychological impacts of gambling are just as important as the financial ones.