Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event for the intent of winning something else of value. It is often associated with a game of chance, but can also be conducted using things of monetary value that are not money (such as marbles in a game of roulette, or collectible card and trading game pieces in Magic: The Gathering). The main reasons for gambling are to win money, socialise, gain an adrenaline rush, and escape worries and stress. However, some people develop gambling addictions which can have serious consequences and cause financial damage as well as harm to personal relationships.
A significant proportion of the world’s adults and adolescents have placed some form of bet, whether on sports, at a casino, or online, and many do so without problems. A smaller subset of those who start gambling go on to develop a condition known as “gambling disorder,” described in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent, recurrent pattern of gambling that results in substantial distress or impairment. There is no cure for gambling disorder, but there are treatments available and some strategies that can help individuals overcome the problem.
While most of us are familiar with the advertising that bombards TV screens and social media, the marketing of gambling is different from most other consumer products. While Coca-Cola might rely on a reminder of how good it tastes in order to get you back for a second bottle, betting firms use psychological tricks of their own to convince punters that they have a good chance of winning, even though – in the long run at least – they don’t.
One of the biggest challenges when dealing with a gambling problem is realising that you have one. This is especially hard for those who have suffered a loss of money and strained or broken relationships, but it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. There are a number of options for treatment and support, including specialist counselling and behavioural therapy.
Getting a handle on your finances is another crucial part of dealing with gambling problems, and it’s worth talking to a debt adviser for free, confidential help. You can find a debt adviser near you at StepChange.
If you’re trying to cope with a gambling problem in someone you love, it can be helpful to seek out support from other families who have faced similar situations. It’s also important to address any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to the problem, such as depression or anxiety.