Understanding Gambling and Gambling Problems

Gambling involves putting something of value (a bet) on an event that has a chance of happening. The event can be a sports game, a lottery draw, or even the outcome of a computer game. The purpose is to win a prize or gain some benefit in exchange for the risk of losing something of value. Some people consider gambling a fun and harmless diversion, but others develop an addiction that can cause major damage to their health and livelihood. Problem gambling can strain relationships, ruin careers, and lead to financial disaster. It can also cause people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, like running up debts and stealing money to gamble.

Gamblers typically place bets on events with uncertain outcomes, such as a football match or a scratchcard. The choice of what to bet on is matched to the ‘odds’ set by the betting company, which determine how much a person could win if they won the bet. Odds are calculated using a mathematical model, based on probability, that is very similar to how insurance premiums are calculated. Unlike the odds used in gambling, insurance premiums are adjusted to achieve a long term positive expected return on investment.

In recent years, understanding of gambling and gambling problems has undergone a paradigm shift that is similar to the way our understanding of alcoholism has changed. It is now recognised that there are psychological rather than behavioural problems that can affect gambling behaviour. The change in perception has been reflected and stimulated by the changes in the clinical description of pathological gambling that have taken place in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

There are a number of ways to help with a gambling addiction. The first step is often to recognise that there is a problem. However, it can be difficult for people to acknowledge that they have a gambling problem, particularly if their addiction has caused serious consequences, such as lost income or damaged relationships. They may try to hide their gambling or lie about it.

Seek treatment, such as a self-help group for individuals with a gambling disorder like Gam-Anon, or an outpatient programme. Some people with severe gambling problems require residential treatment and rehabilitation, which is usually offered at a specialist clinic or hospital.

A therapist can provide support and encouragement to address the underlying mood disorders that are contributing to or making gambling worse. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with accredited therapists who can help you with depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Start with a free assessment and get matched in as little as 48 hours. It is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, and many people have done it successfully. Recovery can take time, but it is worth the effort. The most important thing is to realise that you have a problem, and seek treatment as soon as you can.