The Dangers of Gambling

Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that has an unknown outcome, determined at least partly by chance. It is illegal in many countries and is considered a dangerous addiction because it can damage your physical and mental health, destroy your relationships, ruin your job, get you into trouble with the law or even lead to homelessness. However, not everyone who gambles develops an addiction. It is estimated that over half of people in the UK take part in gambling activities, and for many of them it is harmless fun. But for others, it can be damaging to their mental and physical health, ruin their relationships with family and friends, harm their performance at work or study, and get them into serious debt or even lose their homes. It can also have devastating effects on those around them – including family, friends and work colleagues.

Problem gambling can occur at any age, but it is most common in people who start gambling as teenagers and young adults. It can also affect women and men, although men are more likely to develop a gambling disorder than women. Young children and people with low incomes can be particularly vulnerable. Some people with mental illness or family history of mental health problems are more likely to become addicted to gambling.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, from the hope of winning money to socialization with friends. There are also psychological benefits from the game, such as feelings of euphoria linked to the brain’s reward system. A new study found that playing video games that include loot boxes can be a form of gambling, because it requires players to risk their real-life cash in exchange for virtual goods (Nature Human Behaviour, Vol 2, 2018).

Although there is an increasing awareness of the risks of gambling, some people still don’t think it is a problem. This is partly because gambling is often framed as a choice, and because it is easy to access online or in casinos. Some people hide their problem gambling, lying to their families or colleagues about how much they bet or telling them that they will win big. They can also develop a need to gamble for coping reasons, such as forgetting their worries or feeling more self-confident.

It can be hard to understand how a loved one can gamble and end up in a situation where their behaviour is causing them distress or harm, but it is important to remember that they did not choose to do this. It is also important to understand why they keep going, so that you can be better equipped to help them.

Some people believe that pathological gambling should be classified as an addiction, but this is controversial because of the lack of agreed nomenclature for the concept of addiction. Researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians often frame the issue differently, based on their own disciplinary training and interests.