Gambling occurs when you stake something of value, such as money or a ticket to a sporting event, in an attempt to predict the outcome of a game of chance. If you win, you gain the amount you staked; if you lose, you forfeit that sum of money. Gambling can take place in casinos, racetracks, and online. It’s a popular pastime that supports many different industries, and it provides an opportunity to learn about probability and statistics.
However, gambling can also be dangerous and harmful to your health. It can lead to financial crisis, which can have serious consequences for you and those closest to you. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help yourself overcome problematic gambling behaviour and get back on track.
The most obvious negative impact of gambling is the potential for addiction. If you struggle with gambling addiction, seek support from family and friends and consider seeking professional help. There are many ways to get help for gambling addiction, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you to resist your urges and habits. It also helps you to challenge irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a string of losses or a close miss—say, two out of three cherries on a slot machine—signals an imminent win.
While a large portion of gamblers are recreational players, three to four percent of the population report having problems. It is estimated that one problem gambler can affect at least seven other people—including spouses, children, extended family members and friends.
Research has shown that a person’s mental health may be a contributing factor to their gambling problems. For example, a lack of self-esteem, anxiety or depression can lead to gambling as a form of escapism and excitement. Additionally, those who struggle with an underlying condition like depression are more likely to experience gambling-related suicidal thoughts.
In addition, people who struggle with mental health issues are more at risk of financial crises, such as homelessness or bankruptcy, which can be triggered by gambling. They may use gambling as a way to escape from their financial worries or to try and boost their income.
There are positive impacts of gambling, but it’s important to consider the risks before you play. To avoid gambling problems, try to limit your time spent on it and don’t gamble when you’re stressed. Instead, you could try to relax with a good book or spend your time on other hobbies that don’t involve risk. If you’re worried about your own gambling or someone else’s, speak to a debt charity such as StepChange for free, confidential advice. You’ll find help and support to overcome your gambling problems.