Gambling and Its Dangerous Consequences
Whether you’re buying a lottery ticket, playing video poker, or betting on horse races or sport events, gambling is a form of risk-taking that involves placing something of value (money or assets) against the odds of winning. This activity has been a part of human society since prehistoric times.
Gambling is a fun and rewarding activity when done for the right reasons. But it can also be addictive and lead to serious financial or emotional problems. It is important to know when to stop gambling and to understand the risks involved in order to stay safe.
Problem gambling can range from behaviors that put individuals at risk of developing more serious problems (subclinical) to those behaviors that meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Regardless of whether an individual’s gambling behavior falls into this range, the consequences are negative and may include financial losses, loss of valuable items or relationships, and emotional distress.
In general, people gamble for one of four reasons: for a social experience, to win money, to relieve boredom or stress, or for entertainment. Many people who have trouble controlling their gambling engage in it as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, loneliness, or depression. However, these feelings can be relieved in healthier ways such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
While it is not a direct cause of problem gambling, some studies have shown that early childhood exposure to family members who struggle with gambling and/or substance use increases the likelihood of developing gambling disorders later in life. However, other factors such as genetics and environmental influences play a significant role in an individual’s gambling behavior.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, seek help from a health care provider or therapist, and join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. As a first step, set boundaries in managing money by getting rid of credit cards, limiting access to cash, removing the person from online betting sites, and taking over household bills and bank accounts. This will help prevent the person from using their own money to gamble and avoid putting your family’s financial security at risk. It is also helpful to reach out for support from other families who have dealt with similar situations. This can help ease the isolation that can occur when coping with a loved one’s addiction. It can also help you recognize that problem gambling is a common problem and that others have found ways to cope. These supports may be family, friends, or peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. It can also be useful to learn about the gambling industry and how it works. This can give you a greater understanding of the motivations and incentives to gamble, which may help you better control your own temptations. It can also help you understand why your loved one is unable to quit gambling.