Gambling involves risking money or something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome. The aim is to win additional money or material goods. The term gambling is used in many different ways, but it usually refers to betting on events involving chance, such as lottery numbers or sports results. It can also be an activity that involves a skill element, such as playing cards.
It is important to recognise when gambling becomes a problem and seek help. Some people may start gambling for the adrenaline rush, to socialise or as an escape from stress and worries, but for some it becomes a problem that can affect their mental health. Gambling problems are very common and can be caused by a range of factors, including depression, substance abuse and anxiety.
A person who has a gambling disorder is likely to gamble compulsively and to lose control of their finances. This can lead to financial crises, which may trigger a relapse in gambling. It is often more difficult to address a gambling addiction in older adults than in children and adolescents, but support is available. There are many different types of treatment and self-help, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating gambling disorders, and the type of treatment will depend on the individual’s needs. However, the most effective treatments include group therapy and family psychoeducational programmes. There are also some specialised residential and inpatient treatment programmes for those with severe gambling disorders.
The key to managing gambling addiction is to make sure it doesn’t interfere with other activities, especially those that bring you joy. A good rule of thumb is to allocate a percentage of your disposable income to gambling and stop when that amount is gone. It is also a good idea to never gamble with money that you need for essential expenses or to pay bills, and to avoid chasing losses. The more you try to recoup your losses, the more you are likely to lose.
If you are struggling with a gambling problem, seek help from your doctor or a specialist charity such as StepChange. Undergoing debt counselling can also be a useful step for some people to address financial difficulties, which can trigger or worsen gambling problems. It is also important to get treatment for any underlying mood disorders, which can be made worse by compulsive gambling and are often triggered by it. There is a link between gambling problems and suicide, so if you are having suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.