How Gambling Can Be a Problem


Gambling occurs when people stake something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. This can include placing a bet on sporting events, playing the pokies or buying a lottery ticket. It is important to understand that gambling can be addictive and can cause harm if it becomes a problem.

In some cases, gambling can be an addiction and can result in significant financial loss. It is also a common trigger for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The good news is that there are many ways to get help if you have a gambling problem, including treatment, support groups and self-help tips.

Most people gamble for a variety of reasons. Some do it for the thrill of the possible prize win and others do it to socialise or escape from stress or worries. Some people even use it as a way to increase their income. Gambling can become a problem when it begins to interfere with daily life and create a negative impact on the gambler’s wellbeing.

Pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health disorder that causes harmful and uncontrollable behaviour. It affects around 0.4-1.6% of the US population. It usually starts in adolescence or young adulthood and is more common in males than females. It also tends to be more prevalent in strategic forms of gambling, such as blackjack and poker, than in nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

Longitudinal studies are essential for understanding the development of gambling problems, but they are challenging to do because of a number of factors. These include a lack of funding for longitudinal studies; the difficulty of maintaining research team continuity over a long period; the potential that the time spent in the gambling environment could affect gambling behaviour and/or reporting; and the fact that longitudinal data can confound aging effects and period effects (e.g., is a person’s increased interest in gambling due to being at an age when they were more likely to gamble or because a new casino opened near their home).

The key to reducing the risk of gambling problems is to only bet with money you can afford to lose and set limits for yourself. It is also helpful to only gamble when you are in a safe place and avoid using credit cards or obtaining loans to fund your betting. Having a healthy lifestyle is also important, as is finding a hobby or other recreational activities to help reduce the urge to gamble. If you have a gambling problem, it is also important to talk about it with someone who won’t judge you and seek help when needed. It’s never too late to seek help – a range of options is available, including treatment and residential rehab programs. Visit our Help and resources page for more information.