Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with the aim of winning another thing of value. It is a global activity, with state-organized lotteries and football pools found in most European countries, several South American nations, Australia and some African and Asian countries. In addition, casinos, sports betting and horse races are commonplace in many places.

Most people who engage in gambling do so without any problems, but a small subset develops a gambling disorder. This disorder is characterized by a recurrent pattern of gambling that causes significant distress or impairment. The disorder can occur in any age group, but it is more prevalent among young adults and men. It is also more common in people with lower incomes. People with co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, are more likely to develop a gambling disorder.

The gambling industry is heavily regulated and commercialised, but it remains a popular leisure activity for many people. It is marketed through a range of channels including television advertising and sponsorship. Those who market gambling make appeals to a wide range of socio-cultural constructs, such as mateship, excitement and adventure, social status and hedonism. These constructs lend themselves to a practice theory framework, which recognises that practices rarely operate in isolation and are often part of a bundle of practices.

While much research into gambling focuses on individual behaviour, addiction and cognitive impairment, a growing body of work considers the wider socio-cultural and regulatory environment that shapes and influences gambling-related harms. This framework offers the potential to contribute to a more holistic approach to reducing gambling-related harm.

Gambling involves risk and chance, so you should never invest more money than you can afford to lose. In addition to limiting the amount of money you gamble, it is important to avoid other high-risk situations, such as using credit cards, taking out loans and carrying large amounts of cash. Also, avoid using gambling as a way to socialise or escape negative emotions.

Identify the reasons you are gambling and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. Instead of gambling to feel less lonely or bored, try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby.

Talk to someone about your gambling problem. This could be a family member, friend or professional counsellor. Set time limits for yourself when gambling, and stick to them, whether you are winning or losing. Do not gamble when you are depressed, upset or in pain. It is hard to make good decisions when you are feeling down, so it is better to spend your time doing other enjoyable activities.

Reduce financial risk factors – if you cannot stop gambling, minimise your exposure to it by closing online gambling accounts, removing credit cards from your wallet, having someone else manage your money and keeping only a small amount of cash on you. Avoid high-risk environments and activities, such as gambling venues and TABs.