Gambling is the betting of something of value, usually money, on an event with a random outcome. People gamble for fun, entertainment or to win a prize. But for some, gambling becomes a serious problem. It can affect their social, family, vocational and financial life, leading to debt, bankruptcy and even criminal activity. Problem gambling is more common in men than women and it often starts in adolescence or young adulthood.
People with a pathological gambling disorder are preoccupied with thoughts about gambling or ways to get money for gambling. They have a persistent and uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the negative consequences. They often lie to conceal their gambling activities and they often bet more than they can afford to lose, often called “chasing losses.” People with a PG diagnosis are likely to have a significant loss of control over their gambling, and this loss of control causes them distress and interferes with their daily functioning.
The main reasons people gamble can be grouped into two non-mutually exclusive types: the desire for positively reinforcing subjective excitement and arousal, and the desire for the negatively reinforcing relief or escape from boredom, stress, anxiety or other negative emotional states. Many gamblers begin their gambling activity to experience one of these benefits, but over time they find that their gambling has become more about the thrill of winning and less about the actual monetary rewards (Delfabbro & Le Couteur, 2009).
In addition to financial harm, people with a PG diagnosis are more likely to have a substance use problem and mental health problems than the general population. They are also more likely to attempt suicide and to have a criminal record. They are also more likely to engage in reckless behavior, like driving whilst drunk or taking unnecessary risks in other areas of their lives.
There are a number of things you can do to address harmful gambling and help someone else with a GP’s advice is often the first step in addressing this issue. Other options include family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling which can help to repair the damage that the addiction has caused to relationships and finances. If you are struggling with debt, StepChange provides free and confidential debt advice. There are also charities that offer help with gambling addiction, including GamCare and BeGambleAware. To find a local charity near you, visit the GamCare website or call them on 0808 802 12 12. They can also help with a range of other issues that have arisen as a result of a person’s addiction. The British Gambling Commission also has a dedicated helpline on 0300 111 6333. This is a confidential service and they can help with both gambling and other issues such as substance misuse and debt. They can also provide a referral for a specialist gambling counsellor. They can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also help with financial support, housing and legal issues.