Whether it’s placing a bet on a sporting event, buying a lottery ticket or tossing a coin, gambling involves putting something of value at risk in the hope of winning more money or another prize. It’s a widespread activity, and it’s important to know how to recognise the signs of a gambling problem before it gets out of hand.
Gambling is a popular pastime for many people and, in some cases, it can become an addiction that significantly affects their life. While some people gamble for fun, others do it to win big and may even lose their jobs and homes because of their addiction. There is also a serious condition known as compulsive gambling which can be extremely difficult to overcome.
There have always been professional gamblers who make a living from gambling, and there are many laws around the world that prohibit or regulate it. The earliest laws against gambling were based on moral or religious concerns, and later they were used to preserve public order where gambling was linked to violent disputes or to stop people wasting their time on such activities when they could be doing something useful.
In recent years there has been a move to recognise gambling as an addictive behaviour, and this is reflected in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In DSM terms, pathological gambling is now listed alongside other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling).
Some people are more likely to be affected by gambling than others. Those with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or stress are more likely to develop a gambling problem than those who don’t. In addition, financial problems can often lead to gambling addiction.
Almost everyone has gambled at some point in their lives. For most, it’s just a bit of harmless fun. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing a problem with gambling it’s important to seek help. It’s best to speak to a counsellor who can assess your situation and provide specialised support services.
A counsellor can also help with underlying issues that might be contributing to your gambling problem. These can include family therapy, marriage counselling, debt counselling and career counselling. These sessions can help you work through the specific issues that are causing problems and lay the foundations for a healthier, more balanced life.
If you’re struggling to control your spending, it can be helpful to set a budget and stick to it. It’s also a good idea to try and fill the space that gambling has left in your life with other activities. Check out our Better Health Channel fact sheet ’Gambling – controlling your cash’ for more tips on this. You can also contact our Counselling Line for free, confidential and 24/7 support on 1800 273 8255. You can also find more information on gambling addiction at the Australian Gaming Council website.