Gambling is the act of placing a bet on something that results in either a gain or loss. This can include betting on sports events, buying lottery tickets or even playing video games like blackjack and poker. Some people gamble for a living, earning a profit from gambling and are referred to as professional gamblers. Others are social gamblers and play for fun with friends or in online casino sites. Social gambling can take the form of card or board game playing for small amounts of money, participating in a friendly sports betting pool or buying lotto tickets with coworkers.
There are a number of ways in which gambling can lead to harm, including emotional, social and financial problems. Gambling can also interfere with normal life and cause family discord. Often, problem gambling is linked with depression and anxiety. Some people find it hard to control their spending habits, which can lead to a vicious cycle of gambling, relapse and more gambling.
It’s important to recognize the signs of a gambling problem so you can seek help for yourself or a loved one. If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, speak to a counsellor online or by phone – it’s free and confidential.
The first category of measures, diagnostic criteria and behavioural symptoms, have been found to be too simplistic to capture the complexities of harm and have significant limitations . These include not providing a measure of impact that is consistent across surveys or populations, a lack of an explanation of how these measurements relate to harm and an inability to distinguish between harmful effects of gambling and other factors that may exacerbate or generate harms (such as alcohol use and depression) .
Another key limitation is the tendency for people to lie about their gambling, which can prevent them from receiving treatment. This can include hiding money from their spouse or lying to their employer about absences from work to gamble. Adolescents may also lie to their parents about their gambling behaviour.
Some gamblers can also develop an addiction to dissociation, where they lose touch with reality, and may start to experience hallucinations. This can be triggered by certain games, such as slot machines, and is particularly prevalent in casinos where dissociation is optimised by design (e.g., by the proximity of slot machines to food counters) and through social environments that encourage daydreaming.
A good way to reduce the risk of harm is to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, and set limits for yourself, such as how long you will spend on each visit or how much you will be willing to lose in a single session. It’s also important to avoid chasing losses, as this can lead to bigger and bigger losses. It’s also worth seeking help for any mood disorders that might be causing or made worse by your gambling, such as depression or anxiety.