Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, whether it be placing a bet on a sports event, purchasing a lotto ticket or playing the pokies. The majority of gamblers do not experience gambling problems and, if done correctly, it can be an enjoyable pastime. Often people gamble for entertainment reasons, to try and win money, or as a coping mechanism to help them deal with stress and depression. However, when an individual becomes addicted to gambling, it can have serious consequences for themselves, their family and the community as a whole.
The benefits of gambling can be categorized into two different groups – negatives and positives. Negative impacts include costs such as financial, health and social, while positives are things such as enjoyment and relaxation. Negative impacts can be observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels, while positives are observable at the personal, inter-personal and societal/community levels (see figure 1).
In addition to the entertainment factor, there are a number of other positive aspects of gambling that can be considered, such as sharpening concentration skills, and improving math abilities. In addition, gambling is a good way to relieve stress and anxiety and provides an opportunity to meet new people. It is also a great group activity and is a popular pastime for friends and family. Some even organize regular trips to casinos that may be a few hours’ drive away.
Similarly, the betting industry promotes its wares by offering punters an incentive to place bets with them, rather than their competition. This could be through a big promotion such as a free bet or wall-to-wall sponsorship of a football team. In this way, the betting industry is able to persuade punters that they have a good chance of winning money, which is not always true.
While most gamblers will not develop a gambling disorder, those who do can have severe, harmful consequences. Pathological gambling is a psychiatric condition that causes a wide range of physical, mental and societal issues. The impact of gambling can be reduced by screening for problem gambling during psychiatric evaluations and by offering treatment to those who need it.
Gambling can be used as an aid to recovery, and there are a variety of psychotherapy techniques available that can help people overcome their addictions. These include cognitive behavioural therapy, which teaches people to recognise and control their behaviours. Alternatively, psychodynamic therapy can be helpful for people with gambling disorders, as it explores unconscious processes that influence their gambling behaviour.
People who are suffering from an addiction to gambling should seek professional help as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are a number of self-help resources available to them, such as books and support groups. They can also benefit from a combination of therapies, including psychodynamic therapy and family therapy. The latter can be especially useful for loved ones of those who are addicted to gambling as it can help them understand their loved one’s addiction and provide moral support.