Gambling involves risking something of value (usually money) on an event with some element of chance, where the chances of winning are not always equal. This may involve betting on sporting events, horse races, cards, instant scratch tickets, slot machines, fruit machines, dice or a raffle. The aim is to predict the outcome of a game with an element of chance and, in most cases, to win a prize.
The reasons people gamble are as varied as the ways they do it. It can be for social or entertainment reasons – to enjoy thinking about what they would do if they won, for example – or to get that ‘rush’ that comes with betting and winning. It is also often an escape from everyday life, a way to take their mind off problems or an opportunity to try something new.
Some people develop gambling disorders, which are characterized by an inability to control their impulses and are associated with distress or impairment. They can be treated with psychotherapy, including psychodynamic therapy which looks at the unconscious processes that influence your behavior and group therapy where you discuss your problems with others under the guidance of a mental health professional. It is also possible to find support online or in a self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous which is based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Harmful gambling is often driven by underlying mental health issues like depression, anxiety or addiction. It can be exacerbated by financial difficulties, especially when you are in debt and have to spend more than you can afford to lose. If you are concerned about your or someone else’s gambling, seek professional help and speak to a debt adviser at StepChange for free and confidential advice.