Gambling involves wagering money or something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. In order to be considered gambling, three elements must be present: consideration (the amount of money wagered), risk (the possibility that one might lose), and a prize (the winnings). Many people think of casino games or sports betting as types of gambling, but even lottery tickets, office pools, bingo, and scratch-off tickets are forms of gambling.
While most people gamble for fun, some people develop a problem that affects their mental and physical health. Problem gambling can lead to debt and strained relationships, and it is often associated with thoughts of suicide. People who are unsure about whether their gambling is problematic should consult their GP or contact StepChange for free debt advice.
For most people, the idea of losing money is enough to prevent them from betting more than they can afford. However, for some people, the desire to win can become out of control, leading to compulsive and impulsive gambling behaviour that can have devastating effects on their lives. People who have a gambling problem may lie to their family members, therapists and employers to conceal their involvement in gambling or even commit fraud or theft to fund their addiction. In addition, they may be at risk of losing their jobs, education, or financial stability as a result of their gambling habits.
The most important factor in overcoming a gambling addiction is accepting that you have a problem. This can take tremendous strength and courage, especially if you have lost a significant amount of money or your relationship with others has been impacted by your gambling. Once you have done this, it is possible to start repairing your life and restoring your finances.
There are many treatment options available for people with a gambling problem, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT examines beliefs around gambling such as the idea that certain rituals can bring good luck and that you can win back any losses if you bet more. It can also help people to identify negative patterns of gambling behaviour and develop strategies for addressing them.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a severe and recurrent pattern of maladaptive gambling behaviour. Approximately 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PG. This includes those who have a history of compulsive gambling, and it is generally agreed that a person develops PG in adolescence or early adulthood. Those with PG often report problems with more strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack and poker.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with gambling, it’s important to remember that they did not choose to gamble, and they probably didn’t realise they had a problem until it was too late. Getting support from others who have experienced this problem can be helpful, and setting boundaries in managing their money is a good starting point. Seek professional advice if you think your loved one is having suicidal thoughts or feels overwhelmed by their debts.