Gambling involves putting something of value on an event where the outcome is determined by chance. It could be a roll of the dice, spin of a roulette wheel or the finish line of a horse race. People gamble for different reasons; it might be to win money, experience an adrenaline rush, socialise or escape from daily life stressors. However, for some people gambling can become problematic and lead to a variety of harms including financial problems, depression and anxiety. The good news is that there are many services that offer support, assistance and counselling to those who are suffering from a problem with gambling.
Whether it’s lottery tickets, online betting or the betting window at your local bookmaker, gambling involves placing money on an outcome that is completely unpredictable. This risk and uncertainty is what makes gambling addictive for some people. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone who gambles develops an addiction. In fact, the likelihood of becoming addicted to gambling depends on a combination of psychological and environmental factors.
It is estimated that over half of the UK population takes part in some form of gambling. For some, this can be an enjoyable pastime that provides a source of thrill and excitement. However, for others it can negatively impact their physical and mental health, relationships, job performance, studies and even lead to debt and homelessness. According to Public Health England, there are also strong links between gambling problems and thoughts of suicide.
There are a number of ways that someone can develop a gambling addiction; these include an early big win, the size of the win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, poor understanding of random events and the use of escape coping. These symptoms can be combined to create a complex disorder that is very similar to substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin and physiology.
The good news is that there are a range of treatment options for gambling addictions, including group therapy and family-based approaches. It is also recommended that those with a gambling disorder seek professional help as soon as possible to prevent escalating problems.
For those who have a loved one with a gambling disorder, it can be difficult to know how to respond. While it may be tempting to give in and allow them “just one more try”, it’s important to recognise that a gambling disorder can have serious consequences, both for the gambler and their family members. Taking over the management of their money, setting limits on credit cards and having them close online betting accounts are all steps in the right direction. Moreover, it is also important to recognise that many families have struggled with this issue and to reach out for support.