Gambling is a risky activity that involves putting something valuable at stake in the hope of winning a prize. People gamble for all sorts of reasons – to socialise, to feel the excitement of a win or to escape from worries or stress. But for some, gambling becomes a problem. The good news is that help is available. There are many ways to get help, including treatment, support groups and self-help tips.
In some cases, mental health issues can lead to harmful gambling behaviour. People who experience anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts are at higher risk of developing a gambling disorder. It is also important to seek help if you have financial problems because they can cause you to gamble. This can lead to debt and credit card problems. To stop this from happening, you can seek debt advice from StepChange, who provide free, confidential advice and assistance.
Gambling can take many forms, from betting on a football match to buying a scratchcard. But what all forms of gambling have in common is that they involve placing a value on an event that is unpredictable. This can be an athletic contest, a game of chance or even a political election. In most cases, there is a fixed amount of money that can be won or lost. This is known as the ‘odds’ or ‘betting odds’ and is often set by the company running the event.
While many people enjoy gambling, there are some who develop a problem. This is known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling (PG). PG affects between 0.4 and 1.6% of the population, and is more common in men than women. It tends to start in adolescence or young adulthood and gets worse over time. Those with a gambling problem tend to have other mental health problems and a family history of substance abuse.
The main signs of a problem are lying to family members or therapists about the extent of your involvement in gambling; continuing to gamble even when it negatively impacts your finances, work, education or personal relationships; and hiding money or other assets from loved ones to fund your gambling. Other factors include genetic traits and coexisting mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
While there are several different treatments for a gambling addiction, psychotherapy is an effective approach. Therapists can help you become more aware of your unhealthy habits and help you change them. They can also teach you skills that will prevent you from gambling in the future, such as learning to manage your emotions and making healthier lifestyle choices. Some forms of psychotherapy that can be helpful include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy.