Gambling is any activity where people stake something of value (usually money) for a chance at winning a prize. It can be found in casinos, racetracks, sports events, online and at many other places. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including mood change and the dream of a big win. However, they may not realize the many costs and harms of gambling.
The risks of gambling can affect the gambler’s family, friends and colleagues, as well as society as a whole. It can lead to serious debt, a loss of job and even homelessness. It can also damage a person’s physical and mental health, ruin relationships, impact work performance, and even result in suicide. The good news is that there are steps you can take to stop gambling, whether it’s cutting down on the amount you bet or quitting altogether.
If you’re concerned about your gambling habits, it’s important to talk to a doctor or counsellor. They can help you understand your addiction and give you advice on how to tackle it. Often, gambling problems are linked to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, so it’s a good idea to seek treatment for these conditions too.
Depending on the severity of the problem, there are a number of treatments available. In most cases, they will involve cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address distorted thinking patterns that contribute to a gambling problem, such as believing you’re more likely to win than you actually are or assuming certain rituals can bring you luck. It can also teach you new skills to manage your moods and relieve boredom in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a hobby.
Many people who have a gambling addiction struggle with feelings of shame and guilt, so they hide their behaviour from family members and friends. This can lead to them ignoring or neglecting their personal responsibilities, especially when it comes to managing money. Some people are even unable to sleep or eat properly because of their gambling habit.
It’s also important to recognise the financial costs of gambling. Some of these are obvious, such as the fees for betting shops and other venues, but others can be less visible. For example, the gambling industry imposes social costs on society through taxes, and governments spend resources on regulating it and providing treatment services for those who have problems with their gambling.
You can reduce your own gambling costs by only ever betting with disposable income and never with money you need for bills or rent. Also, never chase your losses – this is known as the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ and is a surefire way to lose more money. You should also consider seeking support from a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous and can offer practical tips on how to quit. You can find out more about support groups on the NHS website.