Dealing With Gambling Problems

Gambling involves risking something of value – money, property or even life – on an uncertain event with the hope of gaining something. It can vary from lottery tickets bought by people with little or no income, to the sophisticated casino gambling enjoyed by some of the wealthiest individuals. Some people gamble as a hobby and are happy doing so, but others find it difficult to control their gambling. If you suspect you are a problem gambler, there are services that offer help and support for the condition.

The first step in addressing your gambling problems is accepting that you have a problem. Some people find it hard to recognise when their gambling is out of control, and may hide their activity from family and friends. They may also lie about how much they are spending in a bid to convince themselves that their behaviour is not harmful, or that their addiction will surprise them with a big win soon.

If you do decide that your gambling is out of control, there are several different types of therapy available to help. Cognitive-behavioural therapy, which teaches you to challenge irrational thoughts and habits, can be particularly useful for those with problem gambling. It can also be helpful to try mindfulness and meditation techniques, which can help you to relax and focus on the moment – rather than worrying about what might happen in the future or reliving past losses.

Problem gambling is a complex issue and there are many factors that contribute to it. It can start in childhood, adolescence or later in life, and some people develop it as a result of trauma or social inequality. It can also run in families, and it tends to affect men more than women.

It is also important to understand that gambling can be addictive because it relies on chance. No one knows for sure how often or big a win will be, so the chances of winning are always unpredictable. A person’s risk-taking tendencies and their ability to cope with boredom or stress can also contribute to gambling problems.

While some people gamble responsibly and find the excitement of risk-taking enjoyable, around 20 percent of those who play games like poker or blackjack overindulge and incur debts that limit their ability to support themselves. These are known as pathological gamblers, and research has shown that they have a different brain wiring than healthy gamblers. The difference is in the way their brain sends chemical messages, and this can lead to a slippery slope into addiction. Fortunately, there are services that can help, including family therapy and financial counseling. They can help you to work through the issues that have contributed to your gambling problem and rebuild your relationships and finances. You can find out more by contacting your local mental health service or visiting the NHS website. The National Gambling Helpline can also provide advice and information. It is free to call, and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.