Gambling involves risking something of value, like money or other goods, for a chance at winning a prize. It can be done in a variety of ways, including betting on sporting events or buying lottery tickets. It can also be done at casinos, racetracks and online. People who gamble can be addicted to it, and they may find it hard to stop. If you are worried about your own gambling habits or those of someone you know, read on to learn more about how it works and what to do if you have a problem.
People gamble for a range of reasons, from the thrill of winning to socialising and getting away from worries or stress. But for some, the behaviour can get out of control and lead to serious harm. It is important to recognise the signs that you have a gambling problem and seek help if necessary.
Some people develop a pathological (or compulsive) gambling disorder, which can cause serious problems with work, family and relationships. Symptoms include spending more and more time on gambling, lying to family and friends about how much you are spending or hiding your gambling activity.
Many people have a ‘normal’ gambling habit, which means they do it occasionally but are not at high risk of developing a problem. The good news is that most people who have a gambling problem do recover with treatment and support.
Those who have a mental health condition are more at risk of harmful gambling, particularly when it is used as a way to cope with depression or other emotions. They may also feel compelled to gamble to try and boost their self-esteem or avoid distressing situations, such as a financial crisis.
In addition, people who have a gambling problem can experience a range of symptoms that can affect their everyday lives, such as anxiety, low mood or difficulty sleeping. In severe cases, some people even contemplate suicide.
There are no medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat gambling disorders, but a number of types of psychotherapy can be helpful. These are techniques that can be delivered by trained mental health professionals, such as psychologists or clinical social workers. These treatments can help you change unhealthy thoughts and feelings, deal with stress and find other ways to spend your time. To learn more about these therapies, visit our page on psychotherapy for gambling problems. You can also get help and advice at a gambling support service, such as StepChange. This free, confidential service can help you address your debts and start to get back on track. They can also refer you to an inpatient gambling rehab program if appropriate.