Harms From Gambling and CBT for Gambling Problems


Gambling is any activity where you stake something of value (often money) on a random event or outcome with the hope of winning something else of value. This can include card games, fruit machines and video poker, keno, football accumulators, horse racing, lottery and casino gambling. The key element is risk. It is important to remember that all forms of gambling are risky and you could lose money. Many people gamble without problems, but for some it becomes an addiction that has a negative impact on their life.

Problem gambling is defined as excessive, compulsive and uncontrollable behaviour involving betting or other forms of gambling that cause harm to the individual, family, community or society. It can be caused by many different factors, and can affect a person’s physical health, emotional wellbeing, work performance, finances, and relationships with others. It can also lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Harm from gambling can occur in a variety of ways, and it is often difficult to identify. This is partly because there is no robust international agreed definition of gambling related harm, and much research and public policy relies on symptomatology as proxy measures for harm, which may be misleading.

The research described in this paper utilised qualitative methods to identify and characterise gambling related harm, including its sources, manifestations, experiences and impacts. This included conducting focus groups and semi-structured interviews with a range of people who were involved in gambling (people who gamble, affected others and a combination of both).

These results suggest that harms from gambling are complex, widespread and highly variable in nature and impact across multiple domains of people’s lives. They can impact on the person who gambles, their families and communities, and are influenced by a number of different factors, including comorbidities. It is therefore critical that a full understanding of harms from gambling be developed, including its interrelationship with the wider social model of health.

In addition to addressing the impact of gambling on an individual’s personal well-being, CBT can help people with gambling problems understand the role of their beliefs around gambling in their problematic behaviour. For example, people who have a gambling problem may believe they are more likely to win than other people, or that certain rituals can bring them luck. CBT can help to change these beliefs and reduce problematic gambling behaviours.