What is Gambling Addiction?


Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value in an attempt to win money or another prize. It is a popular leisure activity, but can cause serious harm to some people. Problem gambling affects people’s physical and mental health, their relationships and work or study performance, and can leave them in serious debt and even homeless. It can also have a negative impact on family and friends.

It is important to understand what makes gambling addictive and how it works. There are many different types of gambling, but the common features include a desire for excitement and a false sense of control. People may start to lose track of how much they are spending and often hide their gambling. They can develop a cycle of chasing losses, losing more and more, until they run out of money and are left with nothing.

Whether you are worried about your own gambling or a friend or family member’s, there is help and support available. You can find details of these services on the NHS website.

In this section we explain how gambling works, the benefits of non-gambling activities and how to get help if you are experiencing problems with gambling. We also cover how to spot the warning signs of a gambling problem and some practical advice for those who are worried about a loved one’s gambling.

Many factors can contribute to the development of gambling addiction. These include a desire to recreate an early big win, a desire to escape boredom, impulsivity and the use of coping strategies such as denial, depression or stress. People who gamble for coping reasons may do so because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their problems with others or they might be feeling overwhelmed by the demands of daily life.

Gambling is a common activity, with over half of the UK population taking part in some form of it. But it is also a dangerous activity, with more than 100,000 people suffering from gambling-related problems each year. Problem gambling can damage your health, relationships, career and financial position, as well as lead to self-esteem issues and depression. It can also cause debt, homelessness and even suicide.

The good news is that it is possible to overcome a gambling problem with the right help and support. There are a range of treatment options, including individual and group therapy. Some treatments are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), while others combine CBT with other approaches such as motivational interviewing, contingency management and family therapy.

The benefits of gambling can outweigh the risks, but it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe and make smart choices. There are several ways to minimise your gambling, such as limiting your expenditure, avoiding betting on football games or buying scratchcards, and avoiding alcohol or other drugs when gambling. You can also look after your mental health by focusing on other activities that are not linked to gambling, such as reading and exercise.