Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money or possessions, on an event that has a degree of randomness and chance. This could include betting on football accumulators, lottery tickets or scratchcards, horse and greyhound racing, casinos, bingo or other games that are played for money. However, it excludes business transactions based on law, such as the purchase of stocks and shares or insurance policies.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, from entertainment to the thrill of winning. For those with gambling disorder, the urge to gamble can become uncontrollable. It is important to recognise the signs of problem gambling and seek professional help for yourself or a loved one. There are a range of treatments available, including psychodynamic therapy, group counselling and family therapy.
Research suggests that there are around 2 million adults (1%) who would meet the criteria for a severe gambling disorder, but that many more have mild to moderate problems. These problems can impact relationships, health and work or study performance, as well as leave you in serious debt and even homeless.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing gambling disorder, such as practising relaxation techniques, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and exercising. You can also learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as by talking about your worries or by seeking other hobbies. In addition, you can try to understand why your loved ones gamble by learning about the psychological mechanisms that lead to addiction. These include: early big wins, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, the use of escape coping and stressful life experiences.