Gambling Addiction

Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value (such as money, property or even one’s health) on an event with an element of chance and the intent to win. It is considered a type of addiction and has been included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It can cause significant psychological, financial, personal and professional harm. It may also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety and has been linked to suicide.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the excitement of winning, socialising or as a way to escape from worries or stress. While gambling can offer a temporary high, it’s important to be aware that if someone is putting themselves at risk of losing control or becoming addicted, there are help options available.

Symptoms of a gambling problem can include:

Increasing amounts of time spent gambling. Increasing amounts of money lost. Continuing to gamble, even when it causes harm. Downplaying or lying to loved ones about gambling. Borrowing money to fund gambling or to cover losses. Avoiding activities, such as work, school and family, to gamble.

Problem gambling can affect mental and physical health, causing a range of symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, migraines and digestive disorders. Some of the more severe symptoms can be suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide. People with mental health issues such as depression, substance misuse and anxiety are more at risk of gambling problems. They are also more likely to become trapped in a cycle of gambling debt and it’s important that they seek help.

There are many treatments for gambling addiction, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT will explore the beliefs you have about betting and how these can influence your behaviour. For example, you might believe that certain rituals can bring you luck or that you’re more likely to win than you really are. CBT will help you challenge these beliefs and develop healthier ways of thinking.

In addition to treatment, there are many other things you can do to help reduce your gambling. Having friends and family who can support you and keep you accountable is a good idea, as is finding alternative ways to have fun. For example, try playing games at home with friends or family members or joining a club or team.

It’s also important to remember that gambling is not a lucrative way to make money, so only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Don’t gamble when you’re feeling low, and if you ever feel like you need to spend more than you can afford to lose, speak to your GP or visit a local support service. There are many organisations that provide free and confidential advice, support and counselling for people who have gambling problems. See the list at the bottom of this page for details.