The Difference Between Recreational and Problem Gambling


Gambling is an activity where people risk money or other valuable items by attempting to predict the outcome of a game of chance, such as a lottery, scratchcard, horse race or football accumulator. People often gamble to enjoy the adrenaline rush, socialise or escape from problems such as stress and debt. But for some, gambling can become a serious problem, causing financial loss and disrupting family life. The good news is that there is help available, from professional treatment to support groups and self-help tips.

What is the difference between recreational and problematic gambling?

Recreational gambling is generally a harmless and enjoyable activity. However, some people can be predisposed to addictive behaviors and may develop pathological gambling (PG) or become severely impacted by their gambling. PG is an illness characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. Symptoms may begin in adolescence or young adulthood and progress to a severe level over time. Those who develop PG have higher than average rates of depression and other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder and eating disorders. PG is not an uncommon disorder, with estimates suggesting that around 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet criteria for a PG diagnosis.

The most common signs of gambling addiction include a lack of control over spending, lying to friends and family about how much they are betting, hiding evidence of their gambling, or even going as far as hiding money. A person who has a gambling addiction might also start to experience withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue and nausea. They might also have difficulty concentrating at work or finding sleep at night. They might show erratic behavior or become suicidal, which is a serious and potentially lethal condition.

It is important to realise that it is possible to lose money while gambling, so it’s a good idea to set limits before you play and stick to them. Ensure you’re not gambling with your household bills or rent and make sure to budget for the time you will be gambling. Moreover, never chase your losses – this is known as the gambler’s fallacy and it leads to bigger and bigger losses.

If you’re worried about your loved one’s gambling habits, it’s crucial to seek help. Getting professional advice is the best way to address the problem and help your loved one overcome their addiction. Treatment options include family therapy, marriage counselling, career coaching and credit counseling. These services can help them work through the specific issues that have been created by their gambling and lay the foundation for a healthy and prosperous future. In addition to professional help, it’s a good idea to join a support group, whether it’s online or in real life. This can give you the strength to face challenges, such as dealing with a spouse who is addicted to gambling. There are many resources online that can help you find a support group near you. You can also call the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700 for help and advice.