The social practice of gambling entails risking something of value (usually money) in the hope of winning something else of value. These values can be material, experiential or emotional. Gambling is a highly addictive behaviour and is therefore considered a harmful activity. It has serious negative implications for gamblers, their families and society as a whole. It is important to understand the underlying motivations behind gambling behaviour in order to address it.
Many people who gamble are in fact attempting to address some unmet needs. These can include boredom, loneliness, anxiety or depression. Gambling can offer a temporary escape from these feelings, but only temporarily. However, if left unchecked, these feelings will continue to grow and may eventually overtake the person’s life unless they take steps to identify and address them.
Similarly, gambling can also be used as an attempt to avoid dealing with difficult personal situations such as relationship breakdowns, financial difficulties or job losses. Gambling provides a distraction from these issues and allows the individual to escape from their inner world. However, the same can be said of any other activity that acts as a substitute for dealing with painful emotions. It is a type of dissociation and is therefore very dangerous.
Gambling can have a significant positive impact on communities, but this is often overlooked in studies of the effects of gambling. Gross impact studies generally focus on a single aspect of economic effect and do not try to account for the full range of benefits and costs. For example, they do not attempt to account for expenditure substitution effects or to be explicit about the geographic scope of their analysis. These studies are not without their critics, but they remain a useful tool in understanding the economic impacts of gambling.
One of the most common misconceptions is that if someone does not like gambling, they should simply stop doing it. It does not work like this in reality and the best way to help is to support them in seeking professional advice and assistance. This could be in the form of a therapeutic and/or financial counsellor.
It is also important to set clear boundaries with the person about what you are prepared to tolerate. This includes establishing how much disposable income you are willing to allocate to this activity and making sure that it is not being spent on essential expenses. You should also make it clear that you will only gamble with the amount of money you are prepared to lose.
It is important to remain calm and not to engage in critical or confrontational discussions with the person who is gambling. It is also important to encourage them to seek help by pointing out that self-help tools, peer support or treatment options are available. These options are more suitable for less severe addictions and can be effective if the person is willing to use them. However, a person who is heavily addicted to gambling will probably require more than just these approaches and may need to receive help in a residential facility.