Gambling and Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money or property, on an event that is determined at least partly by chance. The objective is to win a prize, which may be anything from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. People who gamble often experience feelings of excitement and euphoria, but it is important to remember that gambling can also cause harm. It is important to gamble responsibly and within your means, and to seek help if you think you have a problem.

It is not clear exactly what causes compulsive gambling, but it is thought to be the result of a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors. A number of mood disorders are associated with gambling, including depression and anxiety. In addition, people who have substance misuse problems are more likely to develop a gambling problem. Similarly, people with mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at greater risk of developing a gambling problem.

The Queensland Government defines gambling as ‘the placing of a bet or wager on an event or outcome that has an element of uncertainty and in which there is a real opportunity to win or lose something of value’. This definition is similar to the national Australian Government definition of gambling and has been used in research on gambling. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this definition provides a useful basis for measuring gambling-related harm. Neal et al [1] were critical of both the Queensland and national Australian Government definitions for their failure to provide a functional definition of harm that could be operationalised and measured in order to support interventions, treatment programs, policy development and public health surveillance.

There are a number of different things you can do to help yourself if you have a gambling problem, such as seeing a doctor, strengthening your support network, avoiding tempting environments and websites, giving up control of your finances, and finding healthier activities to replace gambling. You can also join a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous and helps recovering gamblers stay strong in recovery.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help people with gambling addictions. This type of therapy looks at the irrational beliefs that gambling addicts hold about betting, such as that certain rituals can increase their chances of winning, or that they can recover from losses by gambling more. This is similar to the way that CBT can be used to treat other types of addiction, such as alcohol or heroin addiction. CBT is a highly effective and well-established treatment for many types of psychological disorders. The best part is that it is free and available 24/7.