What is Gambling?

Gambling is an activity whereby a person risks something of value in the hope of gaining something in return. It can involve an element of skill as well as luck. Common forms of gambling include card games, dice, roulette, horse racing and football accumulators, and lotteries. It can also include betting on business, insurance or stock markets. It can also be a form of social interaction, such as a game of poker or bridge.

Those who gamble may experience gambling as an escape or as a way to relieve depression, anxiety or stress. Some people who gamble develop secondary addictions, such as drugs or alcohol. Others have a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, that puts them at a higher risk of developing gambling problems.

Problem gambling is when an individual becomes addicted to gambling to the point that it has a negative impact on their life. This can have psychological, emotional, physical and social repercussions, and it is classed as an impulse control disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

A person with a gambling addiction is unable to control their urges and cannot stop gambling even when they know it is having a negative effect on their life. They may feel the need to gamble more and more in order to get the same high, and they might attempt to recover their losses by gambling more.

The risk factors for gambling are often similar to those of other addictions, and some types of psychotherapy can be helpful in treating a gambling disorder. These can include cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help change the way an individual thinks about gambling and how they behave when they have an urge to gamble.

People who have a gambling problem might hide their gambling behaviour or deny that it is causing harm, but it is important to seek help if you suspect you have a problem. There are a number of organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for people who have a gambling disorder, including StepChange.

The best thing to do is talk to someone you trust who won’t judge you – this could be a friend, family member or professional counsellor. It is also a good idea to reduce financial risk factors, such as getting rid of credit cards, having someone else be in charge of your money and not carrying large amounts of cash. Find other hobbies and recreational activities that you enjoy to fill the void that gambling might have once filled, and set short-term and long-term goals that will encourage you to gamble less or not at all. If you’re concerned about your debt, call StepChange for free debt advice. You can also visit our debt help page for more information on how to cope with a gambling addiction.