What Are the Harms Associated With Gambling?


Gambling is a game of chance in which players risk money or something of value on an event with the aim of winning a prize. It may involve gambling on sporting events, fruit machines or scratch cards.

Many people enjoy gambling for fun and social entertainment, but for others it becomes a problem that can impact their physical and mental health, relationships and performance at work or study, get them into trouble with the law and leave them in debt and homeless. It can also affect family, friends and work colleagues too.

Despite its widespread use, little is known about the harms associated with gambling. This is partly because there are no clear definitions of what constitutes harmful gambling. It is also difficult to measure the long-term effects of gambling on individuals and their families.

A review of the literature focusing on gambling related harms revealed that there are several types of measures used to describe the impact of gambling, including behavioural indicators such as loss of control and self-deception. However, these measures are not always reliable and can lead to false-positives. In addition, some of these measures have been shown to be influenced by other factors, such as cognitive biases and comorbidities.

Behavioural indicators can be useful in assessing whether there is a gambling problem, but they are not a substitute for professional assessment. Counselling is the best way to address problems with gambling.

Psychological and cognitive biases can also influence a person’s decision to gamble. This can be especially problematic if there are underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

When people gamble, they often focus on the potential of losing or winning money, which causes them to overthink and make risky decisions. They may also be more likely to have feelings of distress or desperation when they lose money, even if it is only small amounts.

These feelings can lead to compulsive gambling. The problem gambler may need help to overcome these feelings and avoid a return to gambling. Medications used to treat substance abuse have been found to be helpful for some people with gambling disorders, but it is important to seek medical advice before using them.

Loss of trust is another common symptom among gambling problem sufferers. This is because they feel like they cannot trust the people in their lives to keep their money safe, or even be honest about their gambling.

Having no one to share these losses with can be an emotional and psychological distressing experience for the person who gambles, and their families. Some people even resort to lying about their gambling habits, in order to hide the extent of their gambling problem.

This can lead to relationship breakdown and conflict. Spouses and partners of people who gambled at problematic levels were reported to have changed their relationship to a form of parent/child, with them having to take on more responsibility for the gambling behaviours and financial affairs of the person who gambled.