While most people will gamble at one time or another, some of these bets may become problem gambling. The onset of problem gambling is usually rapid, highlighting the need for early intervention and prevention efforts. Pathological gambling can lead to serious consequences, ranging from financial to physical and social.
The most obvious sign of gambling addiction is financial stress. A gambling addiction can cause debt, and even bankruptcy. In addition, gambling can lead to other types of stress, such as relationship issues and feelings of regret or guilt. The feeling of losing money can trigger the brain to release dopamine, which can increase the desire to gamble in order to feel this ‘high’ again. This is known as chasing losses.
In extreme cases, people with a gambling disorder can also experience suicidal thoughts or tendencies. If you are struggling with these symptoms, please seek help immediately. Support groups and treatment programs are available to help you get back on track.
Social impacts of gambling are often overlooked. This is because the costs or benefits are generally nonmonetary and therefore not easily quantified. However, they can still be significant, and are described as a combination of invisible individual or interpersonal and societal/community level externalities. These costs are based on Walker and Williams’ definition of a social cost as “an aggregate of societal real wealth that benefits no one.” This is very different from the personal or interpersonal impact of gambling, which can be defined as an emotional, behavioural or social cost.