What is Gambling and How Can it Affect You?


Gambling is the act of risking something of value (money, assets, or property) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. This can be done on a game of chance, such as scratchcards, or by betting with friends on sporting events, and may involve the use of strategy. The world’s legal gambling markets are estimated to total about $10 trillion annually, and there is significant illegal activity as well.

The main types of gambling are lotteries, fixed-odds sports betting, and casinos and video poker. Social gambling is also common; it can take the form of playing card or board games with friends for small amounts of money, participating in a sports or horse race pool, buying lottery tickets, and even paying for life insurance, which is essentially a bet that one will die within a certain time. Professional gamblers typically have a thorough understanding of the games they play and use both skill and strategy to increase their chances of winning.

While the majority of people who gamble do so for entertainment purposes, some are addicted to the activity. If you have a problem with gambling, you should seek help, as the habit can lead to financial ruin and serious family problems. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, which can be difficult, especially if it has resulted in strained or broken relationships and lost income. It is also important to recognize that underlying mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can trigger gambling and make it more difficult to stop, and it is essential to address those issues.

There are many ways to get help for a gambling problem, including individual and group therapy, family therapy, marriage and relationship counseling, and credit and finance management. Some people also benefit from inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs, which provide round-the-clock care for those unable to quit gambling independently.

A person who has a gambling disorder may experience any of the following symptoms: (1) persistent feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, or depression; (2) lying to family members or therapists about the extent of their involvement in gambling; (3) stealing or embezzling money to fund gambling activities; (4) seeking to recover losses by betting more money, often using speculative investments, such as stocks and foreign currencies; (5) committing illegal acts to finance gambling, such as forgery, fraud, and theft; and (6) jeopardizing or losing a job or educational opportunity as a result of gambling (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

Gambling addiction is challenging to overcome, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent relapse. Developing a strong support network is helpful, and it can be helpful to join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. It is also a good idea to spend time doing other activities, such as reading or exercising, to distract yourself from the urge to gamble. It is also important to set money and time limits for yourself, and to avoid chasing your losses.