Gambling is risking money or something of value on an event involving chance, such as a roll of a die or the flip of a coin. People gamble for many reasons. Some do it to socialise, to relieve boredom, or to make themselves feel better when they’re down. Others have a more serious problem. For these people, gambling can take over their lives. It can interfere with work, strain relationships, cause financial disaster, and lead to self-destructive behaviours, like running up huge debts or even stealing money to gamble.
If you have a gambling problem, it’s important to recognise the warning signs and take action. You can get help and advice from your GP or a charity such as StepChange. It’s also helpful to strengthen your support network, and find healthy ways to manage unpleasant emotions or relieve boredom. These could include exercise, socialising with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby.
It’s also important to recognise the difference between harmful and non-harmful gambling. Harmful gambling is more likely to happen when you’re feeling depressed or stressed, and it may involve lying or hiding the amount of time and money you’re spending on gambling from family and friends. It can also result in legal problems, such as a court summons or bankruptcy.
The most common cause of harmful gambling is a mental health problem. For example, it’s more likely to occur when someone has depression or is anxious, and it can also happen if you have a history of substance misuse or other types of addiction. However, it’s also possible to develop a gambling problem when you don’t have any of these problems.
There are a number of different measures that have been used to measure gambling harm. The first two – the use of diagnostic criteria and behavioural symptoms – are often criticised for being too simplistic and inadequate. The third, which focuses on outcomes, is more accurate but still has some limitations, including the fact that it’s difficult to measure the impact of specific events and the extent to which gambling is a contributory factor in other harmful behaviours.
The most common way to reduce the risk of gambling harm is by controlling how much you spend and by not chasing your losses. This means setting limits for how much you’re willing to lose and sticking to them. It’s also a good idea to close down any online betting accounts and only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Lastly, it’s important to remember that gambling is never a substitute for treatment for mental health problems. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, call 999 or visit A&E immediately. You can also contact a charity such as Samaritans for help and advice. You can also seek help from a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.