Gambling is the act of placing something of value at risk on an event that relies on luck, for example betting on a football match or buying a scratchcard. This is a popular activity that can lead to serious consequences if not managed properly. It’s not always easy to tell whether or not gambling is harmful, but there are signs that can help you identify a problem. If you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem, get in touch with StepChange for free debt advice.
A key theme that emerged from the interviews was that people experienced a variety of harms associated with gambling, which could occur either whilst they were engaging in gambling or at any point in their life. Harms could be both physical and psychological. They also often occurred in combination with other underlying factors, such as alcohol abuse and depression.
Psychiatrists have a strong understanding of how gambling can affect mental health and are often the first professionals to recognise a gambler’s problems. They are trained to use a range of treatment options and may refer the person for inpatient or residential support if necessary.
In addition to a psychiatric approach, there are also other treatments for gambling addiction. One of the most effective is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you confront irrational beliefs that might be keeping you trapped in your gambling behaviour. These include the belief that a series of losses means you are due for a win, or that certain rituals can bring you luck.
Research on gambling and mental health has shown that there is a link between gambling and thoughts of suicide. If you have thoughts of suicide, call 999 or go to A&E immediately.
A number of different organisations can offer help and advice for those struggling with gambling problems, including StepChange and the Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission is the UK’s independent regulator of the gambling industry, responsible for maintaining standards across the sector and ensuring that it is socially responsible. They can be contacted by phone or email. They are able to provide information about local services and support, as well as offering free debt advice and referrals for treatment. They can also provide help for family and friends of those who have a gambling problem. The website is here. A number of other organisations in the UK and abroad also provide help for those with a gambling problem. They include Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamcare and BeGambleAware.