What is Gambling?

Gambling is any activity in which you stake something of value (money or possessions) on an event that is uncertain and whose outcome depends on chance. It can occur in many places including casinos, racetracks, sporting events, or even online. Some forms of gambling are more serious than others and can have long-term negative effects on your life, such as financial problems or damaged relationships. Identifying problem gambling and getting help are important first steps in overcoming the issue.

The term ‘gambling’ is often used to describe games of chance such as roulette, slot machines, or blackjack. Other forms of gambling include betting on the outcome of a sporting event, or purchasing scratchcards. In each case, you place a bet with the hope of winning a prize, which could range from a small sum of money to a large amount of money or other valuable possessions.

In social situations, people gamble for entertainment by playing card or board games with friends for a small amount of money, taking part in a friendly sports betting pool, or buying lottery tickets. These activities can be considered to be social gambling and are not taken seriously by the participants. Professional gambling involves more complex strategies and is often a lucrative career for some people.

A gambling addiction is a psychological disorder that can cause significant distress, damage relationships and negatively impact work, school or health. The diagnosis of a gambling disorder is made by mental health professionals using criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This includes a person having an urge to gamble, making repeated unsuccessful attempts to control or cut back on their gambling, and experiencing distress when they are unable to gamble.

For some, the most difficult step in overcoming a gambling disorder is acknowledging that they have a problem. This can be particularly hard for those who have lost a lot of money or have strained their relationships with loved ones as a result of their addiction. Once a person recognises that they have a gambling problem, a variety of therapies can be used to help them overcome the behaviour and improve their quality of life.

In some cases, a combination of therapies may be needed to address the issue, especially if it is accompanied by other mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. Support from family and friends is also essential for recovery. Other helpful strategies include setting time limits for how long you want to gamble, avoiding gambling on credit, and finding other recreational activities that are less risky or fun than gambling. Seek help if you need it, and try to surround yourself with positive people. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed therapists who can provide online counselling for a variety of issues, including addiction, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. Take our free assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.