The Dangers of Gambling

Gambling involves staking something of value on a random event with the chance of winning a prize. This can be anything from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot.

Many people gamble as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, unwind or socialize with friends. However, there are healthier ways to relieve boredom and stress.


Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money, in the hope of winning a prize. This includes playing games like poker, dice, lottery, scratch cards, bingo and slot machines as well as placing bets on sports events, horse and dog races or any other event that has an element of chance. Gambling is a major international commercial activity and is generally taxable.

While most people consider a game of poker or betting on a race to be gambling, the act of wagering in general can include any activity that involves putting up anything of value for a win. This could be anything from cash to property or even collectibles such as marbles, Magic: The Gathering cards or pogs. For some, these activities are a harmless and fun pastime, but for others, they can lead to serious addictions that affect work, family and other areas of life. Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is an irresistible urge to gamble that can cause people to spend more and more money than they have.


Gambling can become problematic when it takes up a lot of time, leads to large debts, and negatively affects your work, school, family and personal relationships. You may also start to ask for money from friends and family members or start stealing money to finance your gambling addiction.

You may experience other emotional and physical symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, stomach problems, and difficulty sleeping. The effects of gambling can even cause you to attempt suicide.

Some people who gamble have a family history of addiction to alcohol and other drugs, so their risk for developing a gambling problem is higher than others. Biological factors, such as gender, can also play a role. Men are more likely to develop a gambling addiction than women. They are also more likely to be attracted to online gambling and lottery games. You can tell if someone is gambling too much when they lie about it, stay out late, or steal money to finance their habit.


For some people, gambling is a fun and rewarding activity. However, for others it is a compulsive behavior that causes them to bet more and more money than they can afford to lose, often leading to serious financial problems. It can also damage relationships and performance at work or school, lead to depression and even cause suicide.

Treatment for gambling addiction can include a combination of therapeutic modalities and recovery services. These may be offered through inpatient programs that provide 24-hour supervision and support, or through outpatient rehab clinics that offer greater autonomy to clients. Medications, such as mood stabilizers, which are often used to treat conditions that co-occur with pathological gambling, can be helpful.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn to identify unhealthy and irrational beliefs that fuel your urge to gamble and teach you skills to fight them. It can also be helpful to receive family and marriage counseling, as well as credit and debt management.


While many people gamble without harming themselves, others become addicted to gambling and experience serious problems that impact their physical health, mental wellbeing and relationships. Some signs that you might be gambling too much include lying about gambling, not able to stop or control the amount of time you spend gambling, or if you are preoccupied with gambling thoughts.

The evidence base is currently limited and consists of studies examining universal preventive interventions for the whole population and selective intervention approaches for gamblers at risk of harm. The majority of reviews report on interventions to reduce demand (demand reduction) with on-screen warning messages the most promising approach, although only a few reviews examine this type of intervention.

Some reviews consider therapeutic interventions for gamblers at risk of harm, such as cognitive and behavioural therapies, motivational interviewing, brief psychological treatments and self-help or mutual-support interventions. However, these interventions are rarely considered together in the same review and therefore it is difficult to compare them.