Gambling is risking money or something of value to predict the outcome of a game involving chance, such as betting on a horse race or a football match. It can also involve scratchcards, fruit machines and casino games. If you gamble responsibly and don’t get carried away, it can be a fun and rewarding activity. However, some people are more prone to gambling addiction and need help to overcome it.
Despite the enormous amount of money that is lost to gambling, there is a surprising lack of research into its positive effects on society. This could be because negative connotations are more readily accepted than positive ones, or because the problem is so widespread that it would take a lot of time and effort to establish that there are indeed positive effects on society from gambling.
Problem gambling has been linked to a number of health and social problems, including cardiovascular disease (especially coronary heart disease and stroke), musculoskeletal symptoms (including back pain), anxiety, depression and substance misuse. In addition, there is evidence that gambling can cause financial problems such as debt and bankruptcy, and gambling-related crime.
It is important to recognise when you are struggling with a gambling problem and seek treatment, especially if it is impacting on your life at work or home. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness and can actually be a very strong thing to do, particularly if you have been affected by the financial costs of gambling and if your relationships are being jeopardised.
In addition to causing a range of physical and mental health problems, problematic gambling is associated with high levels of stress, which can result in increased depressive symptoms. There is a high co-occurrence between gambling disorders and mood disorders, with studies showing that depression often precedes the onset of pathological gambling.
If you have a problem with gambling, it is important to understand that you cannot control the outcome of a game and that there are no guarantees of winning. It is important to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and to never use the money that you need to pay bills or rent. It is also helpful to set a budget for your gambling and stick to it. This may be difficult to do when you are tempted to gamble, but it is worth making the effort. In addition, you can reduce your risk of gambling by avoiding casino and other gambling venues where possible, not using credit cards and only carrying small amounts of cash with you. It is also helpful to find an alternative recreational activity or hobby that you can enjoy so that gambling does not become your main focus. Getting help and support is the best way to stop problematic gambling. This is available through family, friends, support groups and professional counselling services. It is important to talk about your concerns with someone who won’t judge you. Alternatively, you can use a therapy service that matches you with a professional therapist who specialises in gambling issues.