What is Gambling and How Can it Affect You?


Gambling involves wagering something of value (the stakes) on an event with an uncertain outcome in the hope of winning something else of value. The events may be as simple as rolling a dice, flipping a coin or betting on a horse race, or they might be as complex as a lottery draw or a major sports contest. Gambling can also involve a wide range of activities, such as playing video games, collecting cards or other memorabilia, and even betting on a future event such as a political election or a football season.

Many people gamble for fun and are able to control their gambling, but some people can develop an unhealthy relationship with it. This is called compulsive gambling and can lead to serious financial problems, relationship difficulties and debt. If you are worried about your gambling, it’s important to seek help and advice. There are a number of organisations that provide support, assistance and counselling for people affected by gambling problems. Some also offer information and advice for family and friends.

People may gamble for a variety of reasons, including to try and win money, socialise with friends or escape worries and stress. However, gambling can become dangerous and addictive for some people. If you have a problem with gambling, it’s important to get help and advice as soon as possible.

Symptoms of an unhealthy gambling habit include: Spending more time and money on gambling than you can afford; Feeling anxious, depressed or guilty when you lose money; Lying to family members, friends or a therapist to conceal how much you’re spending on gambling; Chasing losses (trying to win back your losses by betting more); or Borrowing money to fund your gambling (often resulting in unsecured debt) (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

A common cause of unhealthy gambling is mood disorders such as depression or stress. These can trigger gambling and make it more difficult to stop, and they can also be made worse by compulsive gambling. Seeking treatment for these underlying conditions can help you manage your gambling and improve your quality of life.

There is a strong link between gambling and suicidal thoughts. If you are having these thoughts, call 999 or go to A&E immediately.

Many people with gambling disorder have had traumatic experiences, such as trauma or abuse in childhood or adolescence, which can increase the risk of developing a gambling disorder. The condition can also run in families, and it tends to be more common in men than in women. Treatment options for gambling disorder are varied and include psychotherapy, group therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Several therapies have shown some effectiveness in treating gambling disorder, but research is ongoing. It is important to remember that not all treatments will work for everyone, and it is important to find the one that’s right for you.