Gambling is a form of risk taking in which a person bets something of value (money, property or time) on an outcome that is not guaranteed. It is a popular pastime and can be very exciting, especially when you win, but it can also be dangerous. It is important to know when your gambling is becoming harmful and to seek help as soon as possible.
Problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of age, education or social status. It can strain family relationships and cause financial disaster. It can also be a cause of substance abuse and depression. There are several ways to treat a gambling disorder. Talking to a counselor and following a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous can help. Medications may be helpful to treat co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or depression, but only your doctor can determine the best course of treatment for you.
In recent years, there has been considerable interest in understanding the nature of gambling disorders and the mechanisms by which they develop. This has resulted in a number of research initiatives. Many of these have been motivated by a desire to understand how the development and maintenance of pathological gambling is related to its relationship with other harmful behaviours, reduced health states and mood disorders.
Many public health approaches to gambling prevention and treatment make reference to harm minimisation, but there is a lack of consensus on what this means. This is partly because the existence of gambling-related harm is well established, but there are a wide range of negative impacts that can be associated with gambling and these harms become more serious when the gambler participates frequently and with more money.
Attempts have been made to define gambling harm in various ways, from the use of diagnostic criteria to a symptoms-based measure. Symptoms-based measures do have some validity, but they do not capture all aspects of harm that can be associated with gambling and therefore they do not provide a comprehensive definition.
People with a gambling problem can be influenced by a range of factors, including mental illness, drug and alcohol misuse, relationship difficulties, economic and employment problems, low self-esteem and a history of childhood maltreatment. Often there are also biological influences, such as a genetic predisposition towards compulsive behavior and a vulnerability to reward and reinforcement. It is also common for people with a gambling problem to have other emotional and psychological difficulties, such as depression, anxiety and stress. These difficulties can trigger and exacerbate problem gambling, and they can also be the root of other harmful behaviors such as eating disorders or self-harm.