Gambling is an activity that involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. Typically, the term is used to refer to the wagering of money on events with an element of chance or skill, such as a lottery, scratchcard or casino game.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the excitement of winning, socialising with friends or escape from anxiety or worries. However, for some people gambling can become harmful and lead to a gambling disorder. This can have serious consequences for their mental health, as well as their personal and financial lives.
Symptoms of gambling addiction include lying to family and friends about the amount you are spending on betting, borrowing to fund your wagering or continuing to gamble even when it interferes with your work, education or relationships. A person’s risk of developing a gambling disorder is also increased by their personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions. Psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can also trigger gambling problems and vice versa.
Research into gambling disorder has focused on how it develops and the effectiveness of treatments. Longitudinal studies, which follow a group of individuals over time, are useful for determining whether a particular treatment is effective. However, the practical and logistical difficulties of conducting longitudinal studies mean they are not widely available.
There is also evidence that psychological interventions can be helpful in reducing gambling problems. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) addresses the way people think about and behave around betting by challenging false beliefs such as believing they are more likely to win than others, that certain rituals bring luck or that they can make up for past losses by betting more. CBT is usually combined with problem-solving skills training to help individuals identify and address their negative thoughts and feelings about gambling.
A number of religious organisations oppose gambling and have developed policies to prevent it. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Members Church of God International, for example, consider gambling to be sinful.
The first step to overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting you have a problem. This can be a difficult step, especially if you have lost a lot of money or suffered strained and broken relationships due to your habit. However, many people are able to break their gambling habits and regain control of their lives. There are a range of support groups and charities that can offer support and advice, as well as online therapy services which can match you with a professional therapist. If you’re in financial crisis, speak to StepChange for free and confidential debt advice. They can help you come up with a plan to pay back your debts. They can also refer you to a debt adviser for further help and guidance. They can help you find a debt solution that fits your budget and circumstances. You can contact them via their website or phone line.