Gambling involves putting something of value on an event where there is some element of randomness or chance, with the aim to win a prize. It can include gambling on casino games such as slot machines, video poker and baccarat, or the lottery, horse or greyhound racing or football accumulators. It can also involve speculating on business or financial markets.

In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction, but it is now recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a disorder that may require treatment. It is a treatable condition, but it requires the person to recognise they have a problem and seek help.

The first phase of the research involved focus groups and semi-structured interviews with a total of 25 individuals who identified that they had experienced harm from either their own or someone else’s gambling. These interviews were held in person and by telephone and lasted between 20 and 60 minutes. Participants were compensated for their time with a store voucher.

A number of themes emerged from the data, and a conceptual framework was developed. The framework consists of three categories: general harms, risk and reward, and legacy harms. The former includes those things that happen to people and their families as a result of their engagement with gambling. These can include financial, physical and emotional damage. The latter focuses on how gambling can impact the lives of family members, friends and colleagues. These harms can be related to the effects of gambling on the gambler themselves, or they can occur as a consequence of a person’s decision not to engage with gambling.

Many people have a flutter on the lottery, put a bet on their favourite team or buy some scratch-off tickets, but for some this becomes more of an addictive habit than others and causes serious harm. It is important to understand the risks and only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Never use money that you need for other items, and don’t use credit or bank accounts to gamble with. It’s important to set limits on how much and for how long you will gamble, and not to be tempted by offers of free cocktails or the belief that you are due a big win.

It can be incredibly difficult to recognise that you have a problem with gambling, especially if it has caused strained or broken relationships or a loss of wealth. Counselling can be an effective treatment for gambling disorders, and some medications may help with co-occurring conditions such as depression. It’s also essential to get support from family and friends, and to be willing to make changes. Many people have overcome their gambling problems and re-built their lives, but it’s not easy and takes immense strength and courage. This is where a support group can be helpful. You can learn from the experiences of others, and be inspired to take steps towards recovery.