Problem Gambling


Gambling involves risking something you value in the hope of winning something else of value. It is a behaviour that involves choice, chance and risk and can be enjoyable for some people, but for others it can cause serious harm to their health, relationships, work, study or finances. Compulsive gambling, or problem gambling, is a recognised mental health disorder and can lead to addiction. Some people may also develop an underlying mood disorder such as depression or anxiety which can trigger or make worse problematic gambling behaviours.

A person can gamble in a number of ways, including by playing card games or board games for money, placing bets on football matches or lottery tickets, using online casino games or attending live sporting events such as horse racing or cricket. There are also other forms of gambling that are not considered to be harmful, such as buying a scratchcard or entering a raffle.

People can develop problems with gambling in different ways, depending on their personal and family circumstances, the environment where they live and whether or not they are exposed to advertising for gambling products. People who have a genetic predisposition for thrill-seeking behaviour, impulsivity and poor decision-making can be more at risk of developing problems with gambling. In addition, those who suffer from a mood disorder such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse are more likely to develop harmful gambling behaviours.

The main factors that influence how harmful a person’s gambling will be include the amount of time they spend on gambling, the amount of money they lose and the impact on their life. Those who gamble compulsively are more likely to develop an underlying mood disorder and are at a greater risk of suicide. Gambling can also have a negative impact on family and work relationships, causing conflict and financial stress.

Unlike other activities such as sports or exercise, gambling does not provide a physical reward. However, it does stimulate the brain’s reward system and can give a rush of adrenaline. This ‘feel good’ chemical, dopamine, is released when you win and is one of the reasons why gambling can be addictive.

Gambling can have many positive effects, but it is important to be aware of the negatives and seek help if needed. There are a number of organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for people who have a gambling problem or are concerned about someone else’s. They can also provide information about how to stop gambling. Counselling focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviours and thinking, as well as teaching coping skills to deal with urges and solve financial, work and relationship issues caused by problem gambling. It is often combined with other treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps people change maladaptive thoughts and beliefs about gambling. It can also be used to treat underlying conditions that may be contributing to problematic gambling, such as depression or anxiety. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can be used to treat co-occurring disorders.