Gambling involves wagering money or material valuables on an event with an uncertain outcome. Events could be a football match, a lottery draw or even the outcome of a game of chance like marbles or pogs (collectable trading cards). In many cases, gamblers are wagering against others but there is also an element of speculating and betting on things outside of their control – such as stock market prices or elections.
The main reasons people gamble are social, financial or entertainment. Some people gamble because they enjoy spending time with friends who do it, or they think about what they would do if they won the jackpot. Others have a natural propensity to be thrill seekers, or may have certain brain structures that make them more likely to experience impulsive behaviours and difficulty controlling their impulses. Culture can also play a part in influencing the attitudes and values of individuals, which can impact their ability to recognize or admit they have a gambling problem.
Several types of therapy can help people with gambling problems, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Some research shows that medication may be useful for some people, particularly those with co-occurring mental health conditions.
The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting you have a problem, which can be hard, especially if it has led to financial ruin and strained relationships. Then you can take steps to address the issue. Often, it helps to start by setting clear financial boundaries. For example, if you’re a regular casino player, decide in advance how much you can comfortably afford to lose and stick to it. You can also find other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and cope with boredom, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends or trying relaxation techniques.