Gambling is a worldwide activity that involves risking something of value (money, possessions or time) on an event whose outcome may be determined by chance or accident, with the intention to win a prize. In addition to being a popular recreational activity, gambling has become a significant global industry and is an important source of revenue for many governments. It can also cause harm to people with a variety of problems.
Gamblers can suffer from a variety of psychological disorders and conditions that affect how they gamble, and how they respond to losses. Some of these include mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. People with these disorders are more likely to develop harmful gambling behaviour. Other factors that can influence whether someone is vulnerable to gambling disorder include their childhood experiences, family history, coping styles and social learning.
Some people develop a gambling problem before they reach adulthood, while others have a more gradual onset of symptoms and continue to gamble into their old age. Symptoms of gambling disorder can be triggered by certain events, such as financial crises or relationship difficulties. It can also be triggered by stress, substance abuse and depression. The causes of gambling disorders vary from person to person and are complex. Some are biological, some are related to underlying mood disorders, and some are due to environmental factors.
Problem gambling can have a range of negative consequences, including financial, physical, psychological and social impact on individuals, their families, friends and communities. It can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and despair and can have serious legal, health and employment implications.
Research is ongoing into gambling and its effects, particularly in relation to the development of a disorder. A lack of agreement on terminology and a framework for studying gambling disorders has contributed to a wide variation in the nature and extent of the existing evidence base.
There are many ways to help someone with a gambling problem. The first step is to seek support and advice. This might be from a friend or relative, or from a professional. Many people find it helpful to join a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also many self-help groups for families of people with gambling problems, such as Gam-Anon.
It is important to understand that a person with a gambling disorder can recover. There are a number of treatment options available, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Some people with a gambling disorder can benefit from medication. It is also worth considering addressing any underlying mood disorders as part of the recovery process. You should always seek medical advice if you are worried about your mental health or that of a loved one. If you are struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential debt advice. You can call them on 0808 208 2025.