Gambling is the staking of something of value (usually money) on an event that has an element of chance in it with the hope of winning something else of value. Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on horse races, sports events, or using the pokies, gambling is a form of risk taking with a chance of winning or losing.
The most obvious cost of gambling is the money that is spent on bets, but there are also opportunity costs – the time that is lost doing other things that could have been done instead of gambling. There are also emotional costs associated with gambling, including anxiety and depression. These can be compounded by family and relationship problems.
Problem gambling affects the gambler, their spouse/partner and their children. It is estimated that one problem gambler can have an impact on at least seven other people, such as co-workers, friends and extended family. It can also affect the quality of the family relationship and lead to financial difficulties.
A number of strategies can be used to help someone overcome a gambling problem. These can include therapy, self-help groups, and support from friends and family. In some cases, medication may be helpful. However, there are no medications currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of gambling disorders.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. Approximately 0.1-4.6% of Americans meet diagnostic criteria for PG, which can result in severe psychological and social consequences. PG often develops during adolescence or young adulthood and can begin with either strategic or nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as poker or slots.
Trying to get someone with a gambling problem to stop can be challenging, especially when they are in denial about their addiction or do not recognise the harm it is causing them and others. They may try to conceal their gambling activity or hide bank statements. They may lie about their spending habits to family and friends, or even to their employers.
The best way to overcome a gambling problem is to seek professional help as soon as possible. This can be in the form of therapy, self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous or a support group for families such as Gam-Anon. Counseling can be useful in understanding the underlying mood disorder and its effect on gambling behaviours, as well as helping people work through issues such as relationships and finances.
Having a healthy gambling habit starts with setting clear money and time limits. Only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and never use the money you need for bills or rent. If you are gambling and you win, be sure to enjoy the winnings, but remember that you will probably lose too. Don’t chase your losses; this will only lead to bigger losses in the long run. It’s also important to make sure you don’t gamble with money that you need for other expenses, such as food or utilities.