Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value (typically money) on an event with an element of chance, and the expectation of winning a prize based on the outcome of that event. It includes all types of games involving a wager, such as sports, horse races, lottery tickets, casino games like poker and blackjack, slot machines and scratchcards. It also includes non-money events, such as marbles, chess, pogs and Magic: The Gathering, where players bet collectible items that have value, rather than cash.
While the majority of people who gamble do so responsibly, some become compulsive and are unable to control their gambling habits. This can cause problems in their personal lives, work and education. It can also lead to debt, serious family issues and even homelessness. In the UK, problem gambling is estimated to affect more than half of the population and has a significant impact on health and wellbeing.
For some, gambling can be a fun and exciting pastime, providing a rush when lady luck is on their side. For others, it can be a dangerous addiction that leads to financial ruin and destruction of their relationships, career or social life. If you’re struggling with a gambling habit, it’s important to understand how you can overcome it.
Set limits: Start by setting a fixed amount that you can afford to lose and stick to it. It’s helpful to set time limits as well, which can help you stay in control of your spending. Take breaks: Take a walk or have a glass of water to break up your gambling sessions and prevent you from getting bored or distracted.
Understand the odds: Betting companies promote their wares by displaying the ‘odds’ that punters can win, for example ‘5/1’ on a football match. However, they don’t explain that the winnings are only made up of a small percentage of the total amount that can be won, meaning that if you bet £10, you will only win £5.
Find healthier ways to feel good: If you are gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or to unwind, try other activities such as exercising, visiting friends who don’t gamble, taking up new hobbies or practicing relaxation techniques. You may also benefit from joining a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The new DSM-5 categorizes gambling disorder alongside other behavioral addictions and reflects advances in research into the biological underpinnings of addiction. This new understanding has already changed the way psychiatrists treat gambling disorder, and will have a positive impact on the many people who struggle with this condition.
If you are concerned about your gambling, seek professional advice and help. There are many services available, including residential treatment and rehab programs. These are aimed at those with severe gambling addictions who are unable to stop on their own, and are often supported by round-the-clock care.