Gambling involves placing a bet or wager on something of value (like money, property or merchandise) with the intention of winning something else of value. It can be a simple bet on the outcome of a game or event, or it can involve more complex investments such as stock markets or buying life insurance. Gambling is considered a form of addiction when it results in negative psychological and financial consequences.
Despite the popular image of gamblers as glamorous high rollers, gambling is a serious mental health problem. Studies show that people with mental health issues are more at risk of harmful gambling than those without such problems. For example, those with depression or anxiety are more likely to turn to gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or distract themselves from painful emotions. There is also a link between suicide and gambling disorders, so anyone who has thoughts of suicide should seek help immediately.
For many people, it’s hard to recognize when they have a gambling problem. They may deny their problem and continue to gamble even when it affects their work, school, relationships or personal finances. They might also try to “chase their losses” – that is, try to win back the money they’ve lost by spending more on gambling.
People may also gamble to relieve boredom, stress or loneliness. But there are healthier ways to do this, like exercise, socialising with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. They might also consider talking therapy. This is a type of psychotherapy that can be helpful for those with gambling problems because it helps them understand the root causes of their behavior and learn to change it.
Biological factors can also contribute to gambling disorders, such as genetic predisposition or underactive brain reward systems. These can also influence how people make decisions and control their impulses. Finally, culture can play a role in how people perceive gambling activity and what constitutes a problem.
The main treatment for gambling disorder is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This can help by changing the way a person thinks about betting and their beliefs about luck. It can also teach them new skills to manage their gambling. It is important to remember that it can take time to overcome a gambling disorder, so family members and friends should be patient and supportive.
If you’re worried about a loved one’s gambling habits, speak to StepChange for free debt advice. We can help you set limits and put a stop to dangerous behaviour. There’s no need to go it alone – we’re here to support you and your family every step of the way. We can also refer you to specialist gambling services if necessary. Call us today or visit our website for more information. You can also find information on how to get help for yourself or a friend. Please note that this content mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety. If you are having these thoughts or are in immediate danger, call 999 or visit A&E.