Gambling is an activity in which a person places something of value (typically money) on the outcome of an event that has an element of chance and involves a potential reward. It can be done legally and illegally. Types of gambling include the lottery, scratch-off tickets, card games, casino games, dice, and sporting events. Gambling can also take place with materials that have a value but are not money, such as marbles, pogs, Magic: The Gathering collectible game pieces, and electronic devices.
In addition to the social and psychological problems associated with gambling, there are financial and health consequences. A gambling problem can cause a person to lose control of their finances and spend more than they can afford, resulting in debt. It can also affect a person’s relationships with family and friends. There is a link between gambling and suicidal thoughts, so anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek help immediately.
Some people with gambling disorders have underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which can trigger or be made worse by compulsive gambling. These conditions can also make it harder to stop gambling. Other risk factors for harmful gambling include using credit cards or loans, carrying large amounts of cash, spending a lot of time at gaming venues, and socialising by gambling. It is also common for people with mental health problems to lie about their gambling, which can increase stress levels and lead to more compulsive behaviour.
A person can be diagnosed with a gambling disorder if they have any of the following symptoms:
It is not always easy to recognise if you have a gambling problem. If you think you have a gambling problem, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. You can seek help from a GP or a therapist, who may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to look at how you think about gambling and how this affects your behaviour. CBT can help you to change the beliefs that may be fuelling your gambling habits, such as believing that certain rituals can bring luck or that you can recover from a loss by gambling more.
There are also a number of self-help strategies you can try to help you break your gambling habit. The main thing is to remove the temptation from your life by removing the opportunity to gamble. This could mean getting rid of your credit cards, having someone else manage your money, closing online betting accounts, or only keeping a small amount of cash on you at all times. You can also try to distract yourself from the urge to gamble by going for a walk or finding other hobbies. You can also learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques. There are also inpatient treatment and rehabilitation programs for those with severe gambling disorders who cannot stop gambling without round-the-clock support. This can be expensive, but it is an important step towards recovery.