The Psychological Impact of Gambling

Gambling is an activity in which people wager things of value on the outcome of an event. While many consider it a form of entertainment, some people may become addicted to gambling and it can have negative effects on them and others. People who struggle with gambling addiction should seek help from a counselor or treatment facility. In addition to counseling, individuals who struggle with gambling addiction can take steps to refocus their life and get back on track.

While many people think of casinos and other types of gambling establishments when they think of gambling, the term “gambling” can also include activities like lotteries, scratch-off tickets, sports betting and DIY investing. Many people who are in recovery from a gambling addiction find that they need to limit their exposure to these activities to reduce the chance of relapse.

The psychological impact of gambling varies widely depending on the specific game, but the clinical and neurobiological literature has generally grouped all types of gambling games together based upon their common phenomenology. In general, most gamblers will play a variety of different games, and problem gamblers often engage in several types of gambling. Regardless of the type of game, some common psychological impacts of gambling include:

Whether or not gambling has beneficial effects depends on the overall economic costs and benefits of the activity as well as the specific characteristics of the individual gambler. Most studies claiming to evaluate the net effects of gambling tend to be gross-impact analyses that ignore important economic factors.

Some of the most serious effects of gambling are the costs that problem gamblers impose on themselves, other people and society. For example, a person who gambles compulsively is at risk of committing crimes or engaging in other illegal activities to fund their gambling. They may lie to family members, therapists or employers in order to conceal their gambling. They may even jeopardize their career or education opportunities to fund their gambling habits.

It is also important to note that some gamblers who are considered problem gamblers are at risk for a range of other mental disorders. Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or stress can both trigger gambling problems and make them harder to overcome. These issues should be treated by a professional, even after the problem gambler is no longer actively engaging in gambling activities.

Lastly, some research has indicated that the net benefits of gambling can be offset by the social and economic costs associated with pathological gambling. However, the state of research into the net benefits and costs of gambling is relatively poor, and much more work needs to be done in this area. Ideally, research on the costs of gambling should include both explicit and implicit estimates of social and economic transfer payments, direct and indirect effects, present and future values, and gains and losses (Gramlich, 1990:229).