Gambling is the activity of placing something of value on an event with a prize attached, where there is an element of chance or randomness. There are many different types of gambling, including card games, casino games such as roulette and blackjack, betting on football accumulators or horse races and scratchcards.
People gamble for many reasons – to get an adrenaline rush, socialise with friends or escape from boredom or stress. However, some people have a problem with gambling and it can affect their health and wellbeing, relationships with family and work performance, cause financial problems and lead to homelessness. There is also a link between gambling and suicidal thoughts, so it is important to seek help if you are having these.
Some research suggests that certain people are predisposed to gambling, for example those with an underactive brain reward system or those who are more impulsive or prone to risk-taking behaviours. Other factors can include the influence of family and friends who also gamble, the way in which a person deals with unpleasant emotions (such as stress or depression), their age and sex.
Gross impact studies look at only one aspect of gambling’s economic effects – namely revenue and expenditure. They tend to ignore indirect costs and benefits, such as those incurred by society through crime and health issues caused by gambling.
It’s worth pointing out that the majority of those who experience gambling problems are not from wealthier families, and many people with mental health problems are also at higher risk of harmful gambling. The most common reason for this is to try and self-soothe unpleasant feelings or distract themselves from a difficult situation, such as a relationship break-up, financial crisis or workplace conflict.
In addition to a range of psychological therapies, there are a number of practical strategies that can help people with gambling addictions. These include setting limits on money spent on gambling and ensuring that all bills are paid, seeking support from family and friends, attending a specialist gambling treatment programme, practicing relaxation techniques and cutting back on alcohol and other drugs. A GP or psychologist can recommend a course of treatment that is right for you. There are also inpatient or residential programmes available for those who can’t control their gambling despite all efforts. The following websites provide information and guidance about gambling, including advice and contact details for specialist services.