Gambling is when you put something of value, such as money or other assets, on a game with an unknown outcome – this could be a lottery ticket, scratchcard, slot machine, video poker, or betting with friends. If you predict the outcome correctly, you win; if you lose, you’ll have lost your money or other asset. People gamble for all sorts of reasons, from the thrill of winning to socialising and escaping worries or stress. However, if gambling becomes out of control, you may be at risk of developing a problem. If you have a gambling problem, you can get help from treatment and support groups.
The first step to overcoming a gambling problem is admitting you have one. This can be hard, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or have strained or broken relationships as a result of your gambling. However, many people with a gambling disorder have managed to break the habit and rebuild their lives.
If you have a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, it can be harder to stop gambling. In these cases, you may need help from your GP or mental health service. They can refer you for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you change the way you think about betting, so you are less likely to bet. It can also address underlying problems, such as low self-esteem or poor sleeping habits, which might be contributing to your gambling behaviour.
Research into gambling disorders suggests that it is more than just a recreational activity. It can be linked to impaired math skills, low intelligence, poor judgment, and mental illness, among other things. It has even been compared to substance-related addictions in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and physiology. In fact, pathological gambling has been moved into a new category in the DSM-5, which describes behavioral addictions.
To avoid becoming addicted to gambling, make sure you don’t gamble with money you need for bills or rent. Only gamble with disposable income, and set a time limit for how long you want to spend gambling. Never chase your losses – the more you try to win back your losses, the more likely you are to lose more money in the future. It’s also a good idea to balance gambling with other activities, like going out with friends or exercising.