Whether it’s buying a lotto ticket or a scratchcard, betting on a sports event or a horse race or simply using the pokies at a casino – gambling is all about taking a risk for the chance of winning. However, while gambling can be a fun social activity and offer a bit of a rush when luck turns your way, it’s important to remember that the odds are against you. Gambling is a risky activity with many potential negative impacts on personal, family and community wellbeing.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health disorder that causes recurrent and maladaptive patterns of betting behaviours, causing significant distress and impairment to multiple aspects of life. 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet criteria for a PG diagnosis, and it is more common in males than in females. Men tend to develop PG in adolescence or young adulthood and have more problems with strategic, face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, than women do.
People who gamble often use it as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions or boredom. However, it’s important to try to find healthier ways of relieving these feelings – exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques are all good examples. In addition, it’s a good idea to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and never with money that you need to pay bills or rent. You should also set money and time limits before you start gambling so you can stop when you hit those boundaries.