Whether it’s buying a Lotto ticket, playing the pokies or placing a bet on a game of chance, most people gamble at some point in their lives. It can be fun and offer a nice rush when things go your way, but it’s important to remember that gambling is a form of risk where the outcome is uncertain. It can also damage relationships and careers, lead to financial problems and even cause mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Problem gambling can also result in suicide.
Almost half of the world’s population gambles in some form. This includes traditional casino games, such as poker, blackjack, roulette and slots, which can be played in brick-and-mortar casinos or online. It also includes sports betting, which involves placing a bet on a game and hoping to win a prize that could be anything from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. Finally, lottery games such as the euromillions are considered to be gambling as well and involve putting a bet on a number with the hope of winning a prize.
While gambling is a popular activity that can provide some people with entertainment and excitement, it can also cause significant harm. The risk of gambling addiction is higher for some than others and, if untreated, it can be life-threatening. Problem gambling can affect a person’s physical and mental health, lead to relationship issues and even cause bankruptcy or homelessness. In some cases, gambling can lead to thoughts of suicide and is linked to an increased risk of homicide.
People who have a gambling disorder are more likely to be male and to start gambling in their adolescence or young adulthood, while women are more likely to develop a gambling problem later in life. Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by a pattern of maladaptive patterns of behaviour that causes ongoing impairment. It can be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist using the DSM-5 criteria.
Several effective treatments are available for gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioural therapy and family-based approaches. Inpatient and residential treatment programmes are aimed at those with severe gambling problems who may need round-the-clock support to recover from their addiction.
It’s important to understand the different reasons people gamble, and why it might be harmful for them. For example, it’s common for people with mental health problems to gamble as a way of trying to cope with their distress. However, this can be dangerous and should only be used as a short-term measure. Other reasons people gamble include wanting to experience the buzz and excitement of gambling, to feel socially excluded or to relieve boredom. Some people gamble because they’re in a financial crisis, and this can be a sign of debt addiction. If you’re struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free and confidential advice.