Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on sports events or using the pokies, most people gamble at some point in their lives. And while many of us only play for fun, with money they can afford to lose, for some, gambling can become a serious problem. Gambling can lead to debt, and in some cases, even suicide. If you’re worried about your gambling or a loved one, you can get help and advice from StepChange.
Psychiatrically speaking, the term ‘gambling disorder’ has been replaced by ‘compulsive gambling’ and ‘gambling addiction’ in recent years, as it is increasingly recognised that this is a valid condition. The definition of a pathological gambler has also undergone some significant change, with a move towards equating it with substance dependence (a similar evolution occurred with the use of the term ‘alcoholism’).
For those with a gambling problem, cognitive behavioural therapy can be very effective. This looks at the beliefs you have about gambling, such as thinking you’re more likely to win, that certain rituals will bring luck and that you can recoup losses by betting more. And it helps you challenge these beliefs and learn new coping mechanisms to deal with gambling problems, such as avoiding free cocktails in casinos, and stopping as soon as you feel like you’re starting to go over your loss threshold. If you’re worried about debt, you can also speak to StepChange for free and confidential debt advice.