Whenever someone gambles, they risk something of value (like money or goods) on an event that has a chance of happening. They hope that they will ‘win’ and receive something else of value in return. This can be done in many different ways including betting on a football match or buying scratchcards.
Gambling is not always a problem, but when it becomes compulsive it can have serious consequences for a person’s health and wellbeing. The first step to recovering from a gambling addiction is recognising that you or someone you care about has a problem. This can be difficult, especially if the habit has caused financial problems or strained or broken relationships.
People gamble for many reasons: socialising with friends, the thrill of winning and escaping worries or stress are common motivations. However, if you or your loved one is constantly thinking about gambling and spending more money than they can afford to lose, or feels anxious or depressed when they are not gambling, it may be time to seek help.
In the past, psychiatry regarded pathological gambling as a type of impulse control disorder along with kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). However, in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association officially moved it to the category of addiction. Increasing research and clinical experience have also shown that gambling can be treated with cognitive-behaviour therapy, in which you learn to resist unwanted thoughts and habits.