Just another WordPress site

Reducing the Harm of Gambling

Reducing the Harm of Gambling


The thrill of a winning streak on a slot machine or the rush of placing a bet in a twinkly casino can give people a temporary buzz, but for millions of Americans it has become a major source of harm. And, as online gambling becomes more widespread, experts are concerned that more and more people will develop gambling addictions, just as they do with alcohol or drugs.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event, such as a scratchcard or fruit machine, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can also include betting with friends on sports events or video games, where people risk money for a chance to win something of less value.

People who gamble often do so because of stress, depression or boredom and seek a temporary escape from their problems through the seductiveness of the activity. The media portrays gambling as exciting, glamorous and fashionable, and it may feel like a safe way to socialise with friends. Many people start gambling in their adolescent years, and psychological research suggests that pathological gambling is most likely to occur when an emotionally unstable person is under pressure or suffering a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one.

But it is not only financial loss that can be a cause of gambling harm: social isolation, relationship difficulties, mental health issues, and substance misuse are all linked to gambling and can make the problem worse. Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and stress can be triggered by gambling and make the symptoms worse, and they can persist even after someone has quit gambling. The comorbidity of these disorders means they must be addressed if a person with a gambling disorder is to recover.

Psychologists have a range of tools to help people stop or reduce their gambling, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing and interpersonal skills training. CBT involves working with a therapist to identify faulty thinking patterns, such as believing you are “due to win” after a string of losses, and learning techniques to reframe them more constructively. Motivational interviewing helps people examine their ambivalence about change and find ways to overcome it. Interpersonal skills training teaches people how to recognise their triggers, set limits on their gambling and manage their emotions.

The key to reducing the harm of gambling is to treat it as a serious problem, just like other problems such as drinking or drug use. If a person is displaying signs of gambling harm, they should talk to their doctor or a community counsellor. People who are struggling with gambling should control their finances, avoid using credit cards and do not carry large amounts of cash around. They should also find other recreational activities or hobbies to fill the void that is left when they stop gambling. If they are still having trouble, there are inpatient and residential treatment programs for people with a gambling disorder. These programmes offer round-the-clock support and can include family or group counselling.