Whether it’s buying a Lotto ticket, placing a bet on a horse race or playing the pokies, gambling is an activity that involves risk-taking with the potential to win or lose money. In some countries, like the US, gambling is legal, while in others it’s a criminal offence. While the majority of people who gamble play for fun and only occasionally, compulsive gambling can be a serious problem that needs to be treated. Whether you’re concerned about your own gambling habits or worried about friends and family, it’s important to understand what makes gamblers vulnerable and how best to help them.
Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves taking risks for a chance to win. Prizes can range from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. It is one of the oldest human activities, with tiles found in China dating back to 2,300 B.C. Some forms of gambling, such as poker and casino games, require knowledge of the rules and skills, while others rely solely on chance. Some of the most popular gambling activities include slot machines, roulette, blackjack and baccarat, which are played in brick-and-mortar casinos or online.
The factors that make someone vulnerable to harmful gambling behaviour are complex and varied. Many people with gambling problems have psychological disorders and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, social learning and beliefs can contribute to problematic gambling, as well as the environment in which a person lives. In general, younger and middle-aged people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder. Compulsive gambling is also more common in men than women, and the onset of compulsive gambling tends to occur during childhood and adolescence.
When gambling, it’s important to only spend money you can afford to lose. It’s also helpful to set limits for yourself before you start to gamble, such as how much time and how much money you want to spend. Managing your gambling budget is key to responsible gambling, but some gamblers find it difficult to recognise when their spending is out of control. They may hide their gambling, lie about how much they’re spending or try to convince themselves that their losses are ‘just part of the game’.
People with a gambling problem can be treated in the same way as other addictions, using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This approach looks at a person’s beliefs about betting and how they interact with gambling, and can help them see that their gambling is out of control. This is especially effective when it comes to overcoming the false beliefs that cause compulsive gambling. For example, gamblers often believe that they’re more likely to win than they really are and that certain rituals can bring them luck. Having these beliefs challenged by CBT can help them stop chasing their losses.