Gambling is a form of entertainment where you risk something valuable (like money) in the hope of winning a prize. People gamble in all sorts of ways, from scratchcards to playing games of chance at casinos, racetracks or online. You can also bet on sporting events or even play fantasy sports, where you win points or cash for predicting outcomes of real-world situations. It’s important to remember that gambling is always a risky activity, and you can lose more than you stake.
Many organisations offer support, assistance and counselling to people affected by gambling problems. This includes services for the person gambling, as well as their family and friends. These services may focus on helping the person control their gambling, or on helping them find other ways to get pleasure and satisfaction.
Problem gambling affects the physical and mental health of the gambler, as well as their relationships, performance at work or study, and finances. It can lead to debt and, in some cases, homelessness. Public Health England estimates that over 400 suicides a year are linked to gambling.
The key to overcoming a gambling addiction is recognising that you have a problem. It takes courage to admit this, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or have hurt your loved ones in the process. But there is help available, and it’s best to seek it sooner rather than later, before the situation worsens.
Some people develop a gambling problem when they start to lose control of their spending and spend more than they can afford. This is known as compulsive or pathological gambling and is a recognised mental health disorder. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction, so you can spot them in yourself or in someone else.
If you have a friend or relative who has a gambling problem, it’s important to set boundaries. Be clear about how much you are willing to lose and never lend them money to gamble with. It’s also a good idea to make sure they don’t gamble with money that you need for bills or living expenses. It’s also helpful to learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
Gambling is a popular pastime for millions of people, but it’s not without its risks. There are a number of things you can do to minimise the risks, including setting a budget and only gambling with disposable income. It’s also a good idea not to gamble when you’re feeling bored or depressed, as it can make the urge to gamble even stronger. Read our self-help sections on gambling to learn more.