Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or other valuables in a game of chance with the intention of winning. It may involve betting on a football team to win, scratchcards or speculating about the future. It can be fun and exciting, and there is often a social aspect as well. People with mental health problems are more likely to be affected by harmful gambling and may engage in the activity for a variety of reasons, including boredom or to escape from their worries.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you have a gambling problem, as they can help you find ways to cope. They can also refer you to a specialist service, such as a gambling addiction clinic or a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) practitioner. CBT is designed to tackle the beliefs that underlie a person’s behaviour, such as believing they are more likely to win than they actually are or that certain rituals can bring them luck.
There are many possible reasons for a person’s addiction to gambling, but most people are unaware of the risks involved. Those who have a gambling problem do not realise that they could lose everything they own, and that the habit can lead to debt. This can have serious consequences, such as losing a home or becoming homeless, and can also have a negative impact on relationships.
The impacts of gambling can be structuralized using a model that splits the impacts into costs and benefits. Costs and benefits can be categorized as financial, labor and health, or social/well-being impacts. The personal level impacts induce effects on gamblers themselves, while external impacts influence interpersonal and society/community levels. These impacts include general costs/benefits, costs related to problem gambling and long-term costs.
Longitudinal studies on pathological gambling have been few and far between, due to many practical challenges. These include the massive funding requirements for a multiyear commitment, sample attrition and difficulties maintaining research team continuity over a long period of time. In addition, the etiology of pathological gambling is not fully understood, making it difficult to design therapeutic procedures.
The biggest step to overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that you have one. It takes tremendous strength and courage to do this, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or strained your relationships because of the habit. It can be helpful to reach out to family and friends for support, and consider counseling, such as CBT. You can also join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which offers a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. For help with financial issues, see StepChange’s free, confidential advice service. You can speak to a trained adviser in less than 48 hours. You can also get help from a charity such as GamCare. They offer a free, anonymous helpline and online resources. They can help you find a local support group or offer face-to-face treatment, and can also help you explore options for breaking the gambling habit.