Gambling involves risking something of value on a random event with the intent to win a prize. It is a form of entertainment and has been practiced for centuries. The activity has been legalized and regulated in some areas, while being banned or suppressed in others. It is often a socially acceptable activity, with many people taking part in it at some point in their lives. It can also cause significant psychological and financial harm for some individuals. Harms from gambling can impact a person’s family, friends and community.
Harms from gambling are not just limited to those with a gambling disorder, but can occur for anyone who gambles regularly or infrequently. Despite the prevalence of gambling related harm, current public health approaches tend to focus on diagnosis and screening for gambling disorders, rather than on measures that address the breadth and experience of harms associated with gambling. This is reflected by the lack of a functional definition of gambling related harm that can be operationalised, and which can incorporate the range of negative consequences experienced by people who engage in gambling behaviours.
A functional definition of gambling harm could help to develop and implement evidence-based strategies to minimise these risks. However, a number of key issues remain, including the absence of a consensus on a definition and measurement model, the lack of an agreed and harmonised approach to harm minimisation, and inadequate proxy measures of gambling related harm in research and policy settings.
Several factors increase the risk of developing a gambling problem, including age (children and young adults are more likely to be compulsive gamblers than older people), sex (compulsive gambling is more common in men than in women) and family and social relationships. In addition, people with mental health problems such as depression or bipolar disorder are more likely to be at risk of gambling problems.
To overcome a gambling addiction, it is important to seek treatment from a specialist clinic. A treatment program will help to identify and address the underlying causes of the gambling behavior, as well as provide tools for relapse prevention. Inpatient rehabilitation programs are also available for those with severe gambling addictions that cannot be managed through outpatient treatment.
There are many different treatments for gambling addiction, but the most effective is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is an evidence-based practice that can address distorted thinking patterns and beliefs about betting. These include the belief that you are more likely to win than you actually are, and that certain rituals can influence your luck. It can also be used to tackle a variety of other issues that may be contributing to the problem, such as dissociation and denial.