The Psychological Effects of Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, possessions, or even reputation) on an event that will result in either a loss or a win. It is often associated with the exploitation of the vulnerable and may have serious social and health consequences. The practice is illegal in some jurisdictions and people under the age of eighteen are not allowed to gamble. There are several different types of gambling, including betting on sporting events, horse races, and provincial lotteries. In addition, people can gamble in casinos and other commercial establishments. In many cases, a person who is engaged in gambling has to pay a fee in order to participate.

The psychological effects of gambling can be harmful and include a wide range of behaviours. These can affect the health of both a person who is gambling and their family members, as well as their community. In addition, the financial impact of gambling can be severe, resulting in debt. Gambling can also cause problems with relationships and work performance, as well as increase feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. It is important to recognise when gambling is causing harm and to seek help for these issues.

In the past, psychiatry largely regarded pathological gambling as a form of impulse control disorder—a fuzzy label that at the time also included kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair pulling), and which was only recently moved to the addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While medications designed to curb other kinds of compulsive behaviours often alleviate compulsions, these drugs have never worked as well for pathological gambling. In fact, therapists have found that patients with this disorder respond much better to strategies designed to tackle substance abuse than they do to those designed for taming impulsive behaviours.

Gamblers often display a number of cognitive and motivational biases that distort their perceptions of probability. For example, some believe that a string of losses or a close miss should be balanced in the long run by a big win. In fact, this is an irrational belief that is not supported by any evidence.

The aim of the study was to develop a conceptual framework that identifies key inputs and environmental contexts that influence harmful gambling. The framework also highlights how these factors can be reflected in harms experienced by a person who gambles, their affected others and the wider community. The research approach consisted of an inductive analysis that was supplemented by semi-structured interviews (n=25) with people who identified as being either a person who gambles, an affected other or both. These were conducted in person or via telephone and lasted from twenty to sixty minutes. A synthesis of the framework and the interview data was then produced. The findings were used to inform a theory of harms that is consistent with both a public health perspective and a social model of health. This theory was then tested using an empirical investigation of gambling related harms in the Canadian context.