Gambling involves placing something of value (usually money) on an event with some element of uncertainty and a potential to win a prize. It may be done through lotteries, cards, dice, slot machines, races, animal tracks, casinos, sports betting and other games where the bettor’s skill does not factor into the result. Unlike insurance, where the premium is calculated using actuarial methods to ensure long term positive expected returns for both insurer and insured, gambling involves a conscious assessment of risk and an active pursuit of gains.
While gambling can be a source of enjoyment and social interaction, it is also associated with serious psychological problems, such as pathological gambling. People with a gambling disorder exhibit symptoms that include impaired attention and memory, difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses, and compulsive behaviour. These problems can lead to other health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
A gambling problem can have many causes, including mental illness, family and peer pressure, work stress, and substance misuse. Many of these issues can be addressed with treatment and support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The main symptom of a gambling disorder is the urge to gamble even when it is not in your financial best interests. This is often accompanied by denial, guilt, and a feeling of being powerless to stop. If you find that your gambling is causing you distress, seek help immediately.
The prevalence of gambling in the world is difficult to estimate, but it is estimated that over $10 trillion is wagered legally each year. The vast majority of the world’s governments regulate some form of gambling, including state-sponsored lotteries and sports wagering.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, such as the excitement of winning, the thrill of taking a risk, and the desire to escape from worries or stress. However, for some people, gambling can become an addiction. If you are finding that your gambling is causing you distress, contact your GP for advice. You can also get help and support from family and friends, and self-help groups such as Gamblers Anonymous.
While the research into gambling disorders is extensive, longitudinal studies are scarce and problematic. They are expensive and time consuming to conduct, and can be confounded by a number of factors, including sample attrition, age effects and period effects (i.e., changes in a person’s interest in gambling could be due to an increase in the availability of gaming facilities in their area).
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom. For example, you might try exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques. You can also seek professional help through a therapist or attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. It is important to remember that overcoming a gambling problem will take time, so don’t give up. This article mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety. Seek help from a specialised medical service or call a 24-hour helpline.