How Gambling Can Turn Into an Addiction

Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value – for example money or goods – in order to predict the outcome of a game of chance. It can be done in many ways, including betting on football matches or scratchcards, and is a worldwide activity, with around $10 trillion legally wagered annually (illegal gambling may exceed this amount). The three key elements of gambling are consideration, risk and prize.

There are many reasons why people gamble, ranging from social to financial. Some people are drawn to games of chance because they believe that winning a large sum of money could change their lives for the better. Others simply enjoy the thrill of gambling and the adrenaline rush it gives them. However, for some people it becomes a habit that can turn into an addiction.

A person may develop a problem gambling disorder when they continue to gamble even though it causes them distress or problems with family, work and other activities. This is called pathological gambling or PG. People with a PG often start gambling in their adolescence or young adulthood, and the condition usually develops several years after their initial exposure to gambling. PG affects more men than women, and men tend to report more issues with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker.

For those with a PG, the symptoms of their addiction include:

While there are no FDA-approved medications for treating gambling disorders, psychological therapies can help. Cognitive behaviour therapy, for example, can address an individual’s logic behind their gambling, beliefs about odds and skill in non-skills-based games, and the tendency to ‘chase’ losses. Psychotherapy can also help individuals address any underlying issues, such as depression or anxiety, that may contribute to their gambling behaviour.

Those who have a PG should seek professional advice as soon as possible. There are a number of treatment options, from self-help to inpatient or residential rehab programs. Intensive outpatient therapy, which involves daily group and one-to-one sessions with a therapist, is another option.

The best way to avoid gambling addiction is to be aware of the risks and understand how gambling works. It is also a good idea to set a budget and stick to it. It’s easy to spend more than you can afford, and this can lead to financial trouble and stress.

For those concerned about a friend or colleague, it is important to consider their motivations for gambling and whether they are being financially responsible. If they are using their grocery money to gamble, it might be time to have a chat. It is also a good idea to keep up with Safeguarding Training, to ensure you’re aware of the procedures to follow if there are any signs of exploitation or vulnerable adults. Take a look at our range of courses, from Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults to Mental Health Awareness. They’re all available online, so you can complete them at a time and place that suits you.

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