Gambling is a social activity that involves risking money, goods or other things of value in the hope of winning a prize. It can be as simple as playing cards, scratchcards or fruit machines and it can also include betting with friends or on sports events.

Problem gambling is a disorder that causes a person to lose control over their gambling habits and is a serious health issue, potentially leading to financial and relationship problems. It is often treated with therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

People who have a gambling problem can find it hard to control their behaviour and can sometimes even get into debt or be homeless. They may also feel angry or depressed, and sometimes even suicidal.

Harms from gambling are diverse and diffuse, unlike the more direct and tractable harms caused by physical illnesses or substance abuse. They are also influenced by the social environment and community in which the individual lives, and psychological factors including coping styles, beliefs and psychopathology, can influence an individual’s susceptibility to harmful gambling.

The conceptual framework of gambling related harm emerged from an inductive analysis of data from a range of sources. The first theory was that harms occur across a broad range of domains within the life of the person who gambles, their family and friends, and the broader community.

These domains were grouped into six thematic classifications of harm: finances, those harms relating to relationships, emotional or psychological harms, impacts on the person’s health, impacts on work, study or economic activity and criminal acts. Further analysis relating to people from strong religious beliefs, CALD groups and indigenous populations identified a seventh classification: cultural harms.

Relationships are an important aspect of the experience of harm for those who gamble, and a wide range of experiences were reported of harm to relationships including: interpersonal trust issues arising from gambling; instances where the individual or their partner were unwilling to engage in gambling due to concerns about financial security; and instances where there was a negative impact on the relationship with a family member or partner. This was often linked with a sense of shame or stigma around the individual’s gambling behaviour.

In some cases, gambling is a way for people to self-soothe unpleasant emotions such as anger or depression. However, this can be unhelpful and inefficient if not managed correctly. Instead, learning to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways is more effective.

The second theme was about control and the sense of being in control over one’s future. This was particularly felt by individuals who had been diagnosed with a problem gambling disorder and involved controlling their gambling behaviour through seeking treatment and support services.

These services can help you control your gambling or abstain from it altogether. They can also provide you with information and advice about the risks and consequences of gambling, as well as identifying and treating any underlying conditions that may be contributing to your problem gambling.