Whether it’s buying lotto tickets, placing a bet on the horses or using pokie machines, gambling is an activity in which you risk something of value (usually money) in exchange for the chance to win a prize. It can be addictive, and it’s important to recognise the risks and seek help if you have concerns about your own or someone else’s gambling habits.
Gambling is a social behaviour in which participants take an active role in the outcome of an event whose result depends on chance, such as a football match or scratchcard game. People place bets on a variety of events, including sports, horse races, politics and TV shows, in order to predict the winner. If you’re correct, then you will win money; if not, then you will lose it. Gambling can be done in many ways, including online, at casinos and TABs, in sports clubs and at home.
It’s also common for gamblers to lose control and end up spending more money than they intended or even gambling away their entire bank balance. This can have a major impact on their financial stability, relationships and quality of life.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious problem that affects between 0.4% and 1.6% of Americans. It develops over time and typically starts in adolescence or young adulthood. Males tend to develop PG more rapidly and at a younger age than females. Those with PG are more likely to report problems with strategic or ‘face-to-face’ forms of gambling, such as poker or blackjack, but can also experience issues with less interpersonally interactive, nonstrategic games such as slot machines or bingo.
Generally, there are no known specific causes for PG but it can be linked to depression and substance abuse. People who have a history of psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are also more likely to experience symptoms of PG.
While it’s tempting to think that gambling is all about the prospect of winning money, there are many other reasons why people gamble. Some may be looking for an emotional lift, while others use gambling as a way to socialise or distract themselves from other worries in their lives. The fact that gambling can be very addictive and trigger feelings of euphoria means it can easily become compulsive.
The best thing to do if you have concerns about your own or another’s gambling is to talk to someone you trust who won’t judge you. Reducing risk factors, such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans and carrying large amounts of cash, avoiding gambling venues for socialising and avoiding gambling as a reaction to emotions can all improve your chances of successfully controlling or stopping your addiction. You can also try joining a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery model of Alcoholics Anonymous and has helped many people overcome their addictions.