Gambling involves placing something of value (such as money or items) on an event with an uncertain outcome, with the intention of winning more than is wagered. It differs from games of skill, such as those requiring knowledge and use of strategy, as well as from insurance, which involves shifting risk to another party (e.g., by paying premiums) and is based on actuarial analysis of probabilities.
Adolescents’ gambling behaviors can range from experimentation with no wagering to regular social gambling to excessive and harmful betting behavior. Risk factors for developing a problem with gambling include socioeconomic status, environment and community, coping styles, beliefs, and other personality traits. Some people with psychological disorders or conditions, including depression and anxiety, may be more vulnerable to problem gambling.
Many people enjoy gambling for social or financial reasons, but for some it can become addictive. The behaviour can cause significant damage to a person’s life and relationships, lead to debt and health problems, and be very stressful. Problem gambling is also known as compulsive or compulsive-type gambling, or pathological gambling, and it can be very difficult to stop.
There are several theories of why gambling can become addictive, and these vary depending on the individual’s situation and context. These include a desire to gain excitement, reward and achievement, or to escape from difficulties or worries. People can also be influenced by friends and family who gamble, and by the availability of casinos, lotteries and other gambling activities in their area.
A variety of treatments are available for gambling problems, including cognitive behavioural therapy. This helps people to challenge irrational beliefs around betting, such as the belief that they are more likely to win if they keep playing, or that a string of losses is a sign that they are due a big win. People are also more likely to engage in risky gambling behaviours when they are close to gambling venues and have easy access to betting services, such as mobile phone betting apps.
Gambling is a global activity and can be conducted with virtually anything of value, from money to collectible cards and other objects. Some types of gambling are legal in some places and not others, but there is a strong link between the behavior and mental illness. People with depression and other mental health problems, especially those who also struggle with alcohol or drugs, are more likely to experience a gambling disorder than others. There are also links between gambling and suicide. If you think someone is having thoughts of suicide, call 999 or visit A&E immediately. If you are struggling with debt, contact StepChange for free and confidential debt advice.