Gambling – A Functional Definition of Gambling Related Harm


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value, usually money, on an event with an element of chance and the potential for a prize win. It can be done with cards, marbles, dice, slots and machines, horses or sporting events and even on the Internet. Some people gamble as a way to relax or socialize, but for others it becomes an addiction that can cause severe financial and personal problems.

There are several ways to help someone overcome a gambling problem. Counseling can help a person understand the nature of their addictive behavior and how it affects themselves, family and friends. Therapists can also teach patients coping skills that will last a lifetime. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, is particularly effective. It can help a person confront irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a series of losses is a sign that they are due for a big win. It can also teach a person to fight impulses and solve personal, work, and relationship problems caused by gambling.

Some people may also benefit from treatment for co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, which can often be found in conjunction with gambling disorders. Other forms of treatment include inpatient or residential care, which are generally aimed at individuals with severe gambling problems who cannot stop gambling without round-the-clock support.

The goal of this article is to define a functional definition of gambling related harm that can be operationalised to support the measurement of harmful behaviours and outcomes consistent with standard epidemiological protocols used in public health. It also identifies a taxonomy of harms experienced by the person who gambles, their affected others and the broader community in line with social models of health.

It is important to recognise that the occurrence of gambling related harm is not limited to casinos and racetracks, but can also take place in gas stations, churches, school halls and even at home through the use of online gaming. Furthermore, harms are not confined to financial consequences but can also involve psychological and social impacts as well as physical injury and death.

It is crucial that people who have a gambling problem seek out help, whether it be from a GP, psychologist, community worker or support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. In addition to seeking professional assistance, those who are struggling with gambling should try to postpone the urge to gamble, and instead engage in healthier activities, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying out new hobbies. It is also important to build up a strong network of supportive people, including family members and friends, who can provide encouragement and reassurance that they are not alone in their struggle against gambling. There are also a number of peer support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which provides a structured programme for recovery based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. A’sponsor’, a person with experience of remaining gambling free, can be very helpful in this process.

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