Gambling is when you risk something of value (like money or a ticket) on a random event – like a lottery number, football result, fruit machine or scratchcard. It is an activity that is often associated with high stakes and low probabilities of winning. Whether it’s online, in casinos or on the high street, gambling can be addictive and cause harm.
Psychiatrists have long viewed pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, and it is now listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, the psychiatric community has struggled with defining a clear cut distinction between gambling behavior that places individuals at risk of developing serious problems and behavior that meets the criteria for pathological gambling.
The latest research shows that gambling can increase anxiety and depressive symptoms in some people, and it can also lead to other harmful behaviors such as substance abuse and poor diet. If you’re worried about the impact of gambling on your mental health, speak to your GP.
Only gamble with disposable income, and never use money that needs to be saved or used for essential expenses. If you want to go to a casino, make sure you have a bankroll in place, and stick to it. And never chase your losses – the thought that you are due for a win and will get back all the money you have lost is called the gambler’s fallacy. It doesn’t work, and it can often be more dangerous than not playing at all.