Is Gambling a Problem?


Whether buying a lotto ticket, betting on the horses or using the pokies, gambling involves placing something of value (money) at risk in an attempt to win more money or a prize. Unlike some forms of gambling, such as stock market trading and life insurance policies, where skill or knowledge plays a significant role, most gambling involves chance events that are beyond a person’s control.

Many people gamble for a variety of reasons. Some do it for entertainment – they enjoy thinking about what they’ll do with their winnings or how a jackpot could change their lives. Others do it to relieve boredom or loneliness, to escape from stress or conflict, or to feel better about themselves. For some, gambling is a way to socialize with friends.

In general, if gambling is a problem, someone may experience the following:

They continue to gamble in spite of repeated losses or increased difficulties regulating their gambling behavior; they lie to family members and therapists about their gambling activity; they spend time away from work, school or other important activities because of their gambling; they use illegal, deceptive or dishonest methods to finance their gambling, such as forgery, embezzlement, or theft; or they are dependent on other people to finance their gambling.

Counseling can help someone recognize when their gambling is a problem and think about how it’s affecting their life. It can also help them learn healthier ways to soothe unpleasant feelings, unwind and socialize. Medications are also available, though they’re often only helpful in treating co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety. Getting support from peers in a recovery program like Gamblers Anonymous or finding other hobbies can also be helpful.