Gambling is the wagering of money or something else of value on a random event with the intent to win a prize. It is usually divided into two categories: chance-based and skill-based gambling. The latter involves strategies and tactics that can sway the odds in favor of the gambler, such as betting on sports games or blackjack. But, even with these strategies, winning is never a sure thing.
Problem gambling is not uncommon and can affect anyone. It can lead to serious financial, work and family problems. It is also linked to a higher risk of suicide. It is therefore important to seek help if you or someone you know has a gambling problem.
People who are addicted to gambling can have difficulty admitting they have a problem, and often hide their gambling activity from friends and family. They may lie about how much they spend, hide withdrawals and avoid telling them how much they have lost. Many people with gambling addictions are also depressed, stressed or suffering from anxiety, and these issues are made worse by their unhealthy behaviour.
If you are worried about a friend or family member’s gambling, seek support from a therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help to change unhealthy gambling behaviors and beliefs, such as believing that you are more likely to win when you bet or that certain rituals will bring you luck. CBT can also teach you coping skills to manage your urges and solve problems caused by compulsive gambling, such as debt.
Learn to recognise when you are at risk of gambling. Ask yourself if you are gambling because you are bored or lonely, or as a way to distract yourself from unpleasant emotions. If so, you can try to relieve these feelings in other ways. For example, you could try exercising, talking to a trusted friend or doing some relaxation techniques.
Find a support group for problem gamblers. Joining a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can help you to find the tools and motivation to overcome your gambling addiction. The program is based on the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it is recommended that you find a sponsor, a former gambler who can offer support and guidance.
Set limits on how much you will gamble and for how long. This will help you to track your spending and stick to your limit. It is also important to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Avoid chasing your losses as this can lead to bigger and more expensive problems. If you are in financial crisis, speak to a debt advisor at StepChange for free, confidential advice. Also, do not borrow money to gamble as this can make the situation even worse. A reputable credit union or community bank may be able to offer loans for small amounts. This is a safer option than payday or high street lenders, who are not regulated by the FCA.