Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which something of value, usually money, is staked on an event with a variable outcome that is at least partly determined by chance. A wide range of activities can be considered gambling, including lotteries, scratch tickets, cards, dice, keno, horse races, sports events, and online gaming. Some forms of gambling involve skill and knowledge, such as betting on the future performance of stocks or a team. Despite its often negative connotations, there is also considerable legal, social, and personal benefits from gambling.
People with gambling disorders can experience a variety of symptoms, including: (1) an inability to control spending or gambling behaviours; (2) lying to family members, therapists, or others about gambling-related problems; (3) putting their financial or employment security at risk by betting against themselves (e.g., by placing bets on their own teams); and (4) having a tendency to gamble for more than they can afford to lose (known as “chasing losses”). In addition, people with gambling disorders are at higher risk for developing a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.
The vast majority of people who have a gambling disorder are men and young people, particularly those with low incomes. However, anyone can develop a problem with gambling, and it’s important to recognise the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction so that you can seek help.
A gambling addiction can be difficult to diagnose, but there are a number of treatment options available for those with the condition, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family and group therapies, individual and group counselling, and inpatient and residential care. CBT addresses the beliefs that a person with a gambling disorder has about their betting, such as believing they are more likely to win than they really are or that certain rituals will bring them luck. It also examines how a person feels when they gamble and how they react to winning and losing.
It is possible to recover from a gambling disorder, but it will take time and effort. Those who are struggling should try to start by setting boundaries for themselves and only gamble with an amount that they can comfortably lose. They should also find other ways to satisfy their desire for excitement and the feeling of a rush. If they have a financial crisis, they can contact StepChange for free debt advice. In addition, they should seek out support from family and friends to help them think through their choices and solve problems. It is also worth considering seeking professional help, as some people are unable to break the habit without round-the-clock support. It is also important to remember that a gambling addiction can be very hard on those close to them, so it’s vital to avoid criticising or harassing loved ones who have the condition. The sooner a person gets help, the more they are likely to recover.