Gambling is a behavior in which people risk something of value, such as money or property, on an event with the potential to win a prize. This can occur anywhere, including casinos, race tracks, sports events and on the Internet. In a psychological sense, gambling is an attempt to relieve anxiety and to increase pleasure. The risks associated with gambling can include physical, emotional and financial harm to the gambler, his/her significant others and the community/society.
The benefits and costs of gambling can be seen at the personal, interpersonal, and community/societal levels (Fig 1). At the personal level, the negative impacts of gambling affect gamblers and their close family members. At the interpersonal level, negative impacts of gambling have also been observed in friends and coworkers of gamblers. At the societal/community level, negative impacts can be seen in increased debt and financial strain that eventually translates into problems with homelessness, divorce or unemployment.
On the positive side, gambling can bring economic development and revenue to communities. In addition, it can provide jobs and generate tax revenues that allow governments to fund needed public services. Casinos, for example, can make substantial contributions to local economies, and they often attract tourists, resulting in a boost to the tourism industry. In some areas, these benefits have led to the acceptance and legitimization of gambling.
However, the most important consideration in any gambling activity is whether you can afford to lose. It is important to budget your gambling and treat it as an expense, like a movie ticket or dinner, rather than seeing it as a way to earn money. Moreover, gambling should be done with money that you can afford to lose. Putting too much pressure on yourself to win can lead to a downward spiral, and chasing your losses will only result in more loss.
If you have a problem with gambling, there are several different treatment options. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, can help you change the way you think about betting and your beliefs about luck. It can also teach you to set boundaries for yourself, and to stop chasing your losses. For example, if you start thinking that you are due for a big win or that you can get your money back by gambling more, stop gambling immediately. This is called the gambler’s fallacy. It is the most common and dangerous mistake. Changing your belief system and changing your behaviour is the best way to overcome gambling addiction and stop it from negatively impacting your life. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if you have a gambling problem. The earlier you seek help, the easier it will be to overcome your gambling addiction. They may recommend a combination of treatments, including medication. They may also refer you to a gambling support group or community. You can find a list of gambling support groups at your local psychiatric hospital or clinic. Alternatively, you can contact the National Council on Problem Gambling.