The Risks of Gambling

Gambling is a fun and social activity, but there are risks to consider. For some, it is difficult to walk away from a game of poker or putting a few coins into a slot machine, and they become gambling addicts. The reasons why are varied, but can include the desire to replicate an early big win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events, use of escape coping and stressful life experiences.

The majority of gambling activities are private in nature, and primarily involve betting money or chips on events that have some degree of chance. This can include card games like poker or blackjack played by friends or family in a home setting, or bets placed on sports events or horse races by friends and coworkers in a workplace environment. Many communities have cultural norms that deem gambling as acceptable and not to be considered a problem, and this can make it harder for individuals who struggle with gambling issues to recognize a need for help.

There are a variety of impacts related to gambling, and these can be broken down into three categories: negative, positive and costs and benefits. The negative impacts can be categorized as financial, labor and health and well-being, and they can occur at the individual, interpersonal, and community/societal level. The positive impacts can be categorized as entertainment and enjoyment, happiness, stress reduction and brain sharpening.

Behavioral disinhibition is the most prominent factor associated with gambling addiction, and it involves a loss of control over one’s impulses. Several studies support the correlation between risk-taking and gambling, but there is a lack of research that explores how these factors interact with each other. Additionally, it is unclear how sensation- and novelty-seeking, arousal, and negative emotionality influence the initiation and progression of gambling behavior.

Partial reinforcement is a major reason why people continue to gamble even after a series of losses. They believe that they have a 0% to 100% chance of winning, and that a loss or string of losses will eventually be followed by a win. They also believe that the action is a controlled process, and that they can make informed choices about when to stop.

Different groups that have an interest in gambling, including researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians, have different paradigms or world views from which to view the issue. These differing perspectives are often shaped by their disciplinary training, personal experience and special interests. They may have a difficult time finding common nomenclature to describe and compare these diverse viewpoints, which can lead to misunderstandings and debates over the cause of gambling problems.