Can Gambling Become a Problem?

Gambling is when you place something of value, usually money, on an event with an uncertain outcome – such as a lottery draw, a roll of dice or the spin of a roulette wheel. If you predict the outcome correctly, you win a prize. This could be cash, goods or services. It is often a social activity, with friends and family members betting on events such as horse races and football matches. It can cause mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and self-harm if it becomes a regular occurrence. It can also have a negative impact on relationships, work and study. It can also lead to debt and homelessness.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of gambling becoming a problem, such as making sure you only gamble with disposable income and not money that needs to be saved or used to pay bills. You should also try to avoid gambling when you’re depressed, upset or in pain, as it can be difficult to make good decisions. Also, if you’re feeling bored, find another way to spend your time that doesn’t involve gambling, such as reading or exercising.

If you do start to feel the urge to gamble, try postponing it. Tell yourself you’ll wait five minutes, then fifteen minutes, or an hour – this can help the craving pass or become weaker. You can also try distracting yourself with another activity or talking to a friend or family member. If you feel like you can’t resist the urge to gamble, you should also consider seeking professional support and advice.

A recent study of the ALSPAC cohort found that gambling is linked with a range of individual factors, including low IQ, hyperactivity and impulsivity, higher sensation seeking scores and a high external locus of control (feeling you have little or no control over your life). However, the researchers note that the sample size was small, and there was much loss to follow-up. They recommend further research using a larger sample and more detailed measures of personality, lifestyle and financial difficulties.

For some people, occasional gambling can be fun, but it can become a serious problem if you or someone you know is doing it all the time to escape from difficult thoughts or feelings or to get money. Problem gambling can damage your health, harm relationships, interfere with work or study and leave you in serious debt. There are a number of different treatment options, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Talk to your doctor if you think you or someone you know is struggling with this. They can offer you confidential and non-judgemental support. They can also refer you to a GamCare helpline. This is a free service for anyone worried about their own or someone else’s gambling habits. They can offer a range of support services, including family therapy and employment, career and credit counselling. They can also offer you information about support groups, self-assessments and self-help materials.