Gambling is any activity in which a person stakes something of value on an event whose outcome depends at least partly on chance. This includes activities such as buying lottery tickets, betting on football matches or horse races, and playing scratchcards. Skill can improve the odds of winning in some gambling games, but the underlying randomness of chance means that no one knows for sure what the final result will be.
The term gambling can be applied to any game of chance, but most people think of it in terms of placing a bet and hoping to win money. Some people gamble to escape their problems, and others do it for pleasure and the thrill of the rush when they make a winning bet. However, for many people, gambling can become a serious problem. It is estimated that around 7% of adults and 22% of adolescents have some form of gambling disorder, defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) as an ongoing pattern of gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment.
A number of factors contribute to the development of gambling disorders, including mental health issues and social pressures to gamble. It is important to seek help if you are concerned about your own or someone else’s gambling habits, as gambling can cause serious financial, personal and family problems.
There is a strong link between depression and gambling. Many people who have mood disorders find that gambling becomes an addictive way to feel better about themselves or to distract themselves. It is also important to be aware that gambling can be a trigger for suicidal thoughts, so if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 999 or go to A&E immediately.
Many different things can lead to gambling problems, from a lack of knowledge about how to play, to underlying mood disorders. People with depression, stress or anxiety are more at risk of harmful gambling and can often develop problems if they continue to gamble even after they have addressed their underlying conditions.
It is also important to understand how gambling works, to set realistic expectations about winning and to keep gambling within your budget and time constraints. Never gamble with money that you need for essential living expenses, and don’t use credit to gamble. Try to balance gambling with other leisure activities and don’t let it take over your life. And always avoid chasing losses – the more you try to win back what you’ve lost, the more likely it is that you’ll end up losing more.
There are no drugs that have been approved for the treatment of gambling disorders, but counseling can be useful for identifying and addressing some of the root causes. Counseling can also be helpful in developing coping mechanisms, and for supporting families of people with gambling disorders. It can be especially helpful to reach out for support from other families who have experienced the same thing.