Gambling is the act of risking something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance, such as a game of poker or a horse race. The goal is to win more than you lose, and the amount of money that you wager determines your chances of winning. It’s an activity that many people enjoy for a variety of reasons, including to socialize, escape boredom, and relieve stress and anxiety. However, for some people, gambling can become an addiction that negatively impacts their health and relationships. In addition, some people find that their habit can lead to financial problems and even homelessness.
There are a number of things that can cause someone to develop a gambling problem, and people may start to gamble at any age. Statistically, men are more likely to develop a gambling problem than women, but anyone can be vulnerable. Children as young as seven can be attracted to video and mobile games that require micro-transactions and payments, and older people can feel isolated or bored, making them susceptible to gambling. People who work in casinos, betting shops or arcades can also be at a higher risk of developing a gambling habit.
The risk of a gambling problem can be difficult to recognise, and some people will try to minimise or deny their problem. They may lie to friends and family, hide evidence of their gambling or try to convince them that it is not a problem by claiming they are winning big. They may also spend more time gambling than they intend to or make reckless bets, putting themselves at risk of serious financial and personal damage.
A person can develop a gambling problem when the urge to gamble becomes excessive and impairs their functioning at home, school or work. They may also experience other symptoms such as anxiety and depression. If you think you or a loved one has a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help, as there are a number of treatments and support services available.
The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem, which can be difficult for some people, particularly if they have lost a lot of money or have strained or broken relationships as a result of their habit. Once you’ve done this, you can seek professional help from a therapist. BetterHelp is an online service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help with gambling addiction, as well as other issues such as depression, relationship problems and anxiety. Take our assessment and get matched with a therapist in just 48 hours. You can then discuss your situation and come up with a plan for recovery. This could include setting up new boundaries and limits around gambling, arranging for someone else to manage your finances, or attending a self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous. In severe cases, you might consider inpatient or residential treatment and rehabilitation programs. For more information, see our page on Gambling treatment and rehabilitation.