Gambling involves placing something of value (money, possessions, or reputation) on the outcome of a random event – often one with an element of chance. This is different from a business transaction in which a buyer pays for goods or services and receives them over time, in exchange for a contractual agreement – this is more like insurance.
It can be very easy to get caught up in gambling, and the problem is getting even more severe in this age where internet and mobile phones have made it much easier to gamble. Four in five Americans say they have gambled and some people become addicted to it, with effects ranging from minor to serious. It can harm relationships, interfere with work and study, cause serious debt and even homelessness. But many people find it hard to admit there’s a problem and seek treatment.
The good news is that it’s possible to recover from gambling addiction, and there are many effective treatments. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you confront irrational beliefs that cause problems – such as the belief that a streak of losses is a sign of an imminent win, or that certain rituals can improve your chances of winning.
In addition to CBT, there are many medications that can help you control your gambling and reduce cravings. These are generally prescribed by a psychiatrist, but your doctor will take into account your circumstances and recommend the most appropriate treatment.
It’s important to remember that gambling is not just a mental illness, but a real physical problem. Those who are seriously addicted to gambling experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea, palpitations and a feeling of intense excitement. They may also have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, as well as withdrawing from family and friends. They may even attempt to conceal their gambling activity, lie to family and friends about how much they’re spending or hide evidence of their gambling activities from others.
While some people can manage their gambling addiction on their own, others need a helping hand. If you’re worried about your own gambling or someone else’s, speak to a GP or counsellor.
While there are many positive benefits of gambling, it’s also important to consider the negative impacts on society and individuals. These can be at the personal, interpersonal or community/society level and affect more than just the gambler. These impacts can have long-term consequences, change an individual’s life course and pass between generations. However, they’re harder to measure than economic costs and benefits, so they receive less attention in studies. As a result, they’re rarely considered in policy decisions on gambling. This is a shame because research has shown that social impacts are just as significant as financial ones. This is why it’s essential to balance the scales when deciding on gambling policies.