Gambling is an activity that involves placing a bet on the outcome of an event, often with a fixed amount of money. The event could be anything from a football match to a scratchcard; the bet is matched to ‘odds’ which are set by the betting company (eg 5/1 or 2/1 on a scratchcard) and determine how much you can win. Despite being an extremely popular activity, gambling can lead to serious problems for some people and there is help out there if you are concerned that your gambling is becoming a problem.
Several psychological treatments can be used to address gambling problems, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a type of treatment that involves working with a mental health professional to identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, but CBT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms.
A number of factors can increase the risk of harmful gambling, including mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In addition, financial problems such as debt can make it harder to control spending and may lead to gambling habits. There is also a strong link between gambling and suicide – if you are having suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
While there are a wide range of reasons why people gamble, some of the most common include the desire to socialise, the rush of winning money and to escape from worries or stress. People who have a mental health condition are at greater risk of harmful gambling, as they are more likely to use the activity to self-soothe and avoid dealing with underlying issues.
For many people, gambling is a fun and exciting activity that they can enjoy with friends or on their own. However, for some it can become a problem that affects their work, family life and personal relationships. In severe cases, it can even lead to depression and suicide.
There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of harmful gambling, including setting spending and time limits, only using disposable income to gamble and never gambling with money that is needed for bills or rent. It’s also important to find other ways to relax and spend your free time, such as socialising with friends or taking up a new hobby.
Some people will try to hide their gambling habit and deny that it is causing them a problem, but this only makes the situation worse. If you are worried about a loved one who is struggling with a gambling problem, talk to them and seek help. There are specialist services available, including family therapy and credit counselling. You can get advice from StepChange, a free and confidential debt charity. Alternatively, you can contact your local Gambling Commission helpline. They can advise on local support groups and offer free debt advice.