Gambling is when you risk money or something of value in a game of chance with the aim of winning. It is a popular activity and there are many types of gambling, including card games, fruit machines, football accumulators, horse and greyhound racing, lotteries, scratchcards and even betting on business or political events.
Most people who gamble have the best of intentions but for some it can become a problem. It can damage health, cause financial hardship and affect relationships. It is also linked to depression and suicide. For those with severe problems, treatment is available.
Over half the UK population takes part in some form of gambling. For many, it is enjoyable and harmless, but for others it can damage their mental health, impact their work or study performance and lead to debt and homelessness. Symptoms of gambling disorder can start at any age, and can be worsened by trauma or social inequality.
There is no medication approved for the treatment of gambling disorders, although certain medications can help treat co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety. Counselling, group therapy and family therapy are also helpful. A number of self-help groups are available for those with gambling disorders, including Gamblers Anonymous. Research suggests that physical activities, such as walking or running, can help reduce the urge to gamble.
People with mental health issues are at greater risk of gambling problems. They may gamble to distract themselves or to feel better about themselves, particularly if they are feeling depressed, anxious or angry. They are also more likely to be affected by other factors, such as substance use or relationship problems. Some people who have mental health problems find it difficult to control their spending, so they may end up gambling to try to make up for deficits in their finances.
Some studies have shown that a small percentage of gamblers develop a gambling addiction. In some cases, the addiction can be triggered by a history of family history with gambling disorder or by other risk factors. In other cases, it appears to be a genetically transmitted condition that runs in families.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a gambling disorder, so that you can seek help for yourself or someone you know. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
Having an addictive gambling habit can be very dangerous. It can ruin your life, your family’s lives and even your health. It’s important to get treatment right away if you have a gambling problem. You can seek help from a GP, a charity such as Gam-Anon or StepChange. You can also call the NHS helpline, visit a local support service or join a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. You can also try to postpone your gambling, as this can give you time to think about other things. And remember, if you have a financial crisis, speak to StepChange for free, confidential debt advice. You can also call 999 or visit A&E if your situation is urgent.