Gambling and Affecting Relationships
Gambling is an activity in which a person risks money or other items of value on an outcome that is uncertain, either to win or to lose. It can involve traditional games such as scratchcards or fruit machines, or more contemporary forms such as online gambling and betting with friends.
Gamblers may be motivated to gamble due to a range of factors, including: emotions such as boredom and loneliness, anxiety or stress, or self-soothing needs. In addition, people who gamble may have distorted or erroneous beliefs about their chances of winning. These beliefs can lead to emotional distress or financial losses.
There are many ways to reduce harms related to gambling. In addition to seeking professional help, people who experience gambling-related problems may also seek support from family and friends. They can take up new hobbies, attend social events or try relaxation techniques.
Behavioral therapies for problem gambling, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy, can be effective in helping people overcome the harmful behaviors associated with their addictions to gambling. These types of treatments focus on reprogramming negative thought patterns, replacing distorted thoughts with more realistic and rational ones.
Various studies have shown that people who gamble are often at risk of damaging their relationships. They might feel lonely, angry or depressed and find it hard to connect with others. They may also have difficulty making decisions and deciding whether or not to gamble.
The study identified two distinct dimensions of harms relating to the person who gambled, and their relationship with affected others (including family, friends and community). These included: general harms such as irritability, insomnia, depression and anxiety; and the experience of negative consequences that resulted from gambling.
Both the person who gambled and their affected others reported experiencing feelings of powerlessness in relation to their gambling behaviours or the impact from that gambling, such as financial losses. This was a crisis point in the individual’s relationship with their loved ones and often led to seeking assistance.
General harms resulting from a person’s engagement with gambling include short term impacts such as headache and migraine, but are also associated with the potential for creating gateway effects, increasing comorbidity or exacerbating existing conditions. These impacts are known as legacy harms and are a key concern for health professionals.
Reducing these harms is important in reducing the negative effects of gambling on both the individual who gambles and their affected others. These harms are commonly associated with poor self-esteem, loss of control, and distorted beliefs.
Harm minimisation measures such as problem gambling diagnostic criteria and behavioural symptoms have been used to identify those suffering from gambling problems, but these are overly simplistic in terms of the breadth and experience of harms. There is a need to develop a consistent approach to defining and measuring harms that is more suitable for treating individuals with gambling-related problems.
Having a clearer understanding of gambling-related harm will allow treatment providers, policy makers and researchers to better assess the effectiveness of prevention and treatment interventions that target problem gambling. It will also improve the consistency of gambling-related research, which will enable the development of more effective and relevant clinical practice.