Gambling is an activity where you risk something of value (money or possessions) on an outcome involving chance, such as in betting, arcade games, scratchcards and lottery games. You can also place bets on horse or greyhound races, football accumulators and other events. You can gamble online, in casinos, at TABs and in clubs.
People can be addicted to gambling for many reasons. For some, it can provide excitement and an adrenaline rush, while for others it can be a way to escape the stresses of everyday life. Problem gambling can be a serious social and economic issue. The consequences can include bankruptcy, credit problems, debt and personal and family distress. It can also have a significant negative impact on mental health, including depression and anxiety.
It is important to recognise the signs of a gambling addiction in yourself or someone close to you. If you are concerned, talk to a health professional or counsellor. Psychotherapy, which includes cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing, can help people overcome their addictive behaviour. There are also support groups available, which can be helpful for people trying to break free from a gambling habit.
Some people may not be aware that they have a gambling problem because of cultural and other factors that make it difficult to identify the issue or seek help. For example, some communities view gambling as a normal pastime and may not have the same understanding of what constitutes a problem. Other factors that can contribute to a gambling problem are family history, personality and genetics. People with a family history of gambling disorder are more likely to have an underactive reward system in the brain, which can cause difficulties with impulse control and weighting risks.
Getting help for gambling problems can be challenging, especially when you are dealing with financial issues. A financial counsellor can assist you with budgeting and money management, assisting you to reduce your debt load and manage your finances more effectively. You can also seek advice from the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133.
Limiting your access to cash is an effective way of reducing the urge to gamble. Avoid carrying a large amount of cash, and consider only using debit or credit cards with a limit on daily withdrawals. You can also have two people as signatories on bank accounts to prevent you from spending more than you earn, and consider arranging for someone to take charge of your day-to-day money management. See our guide Getting informal help with managing your money for more information.