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What is Gambling and How Can it Affect You?

Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, usually money or other valuables, with the intent to win. It can take many forms, from lotteries to casino games and sports betting, and is widespread in the world today. It is estimated that around $10 trillion is wagered legally each year worldwide. It is often considered an addictive behaviour.

There are many reasons why people gamble, including for the adrenaline rush of winning, to socialise with friends or as a way to distract themselves from stress or other worries. However, for some people gambling can get out of control, leading to debt problems and other personal difficulties. There are also links between mental health issues and harmful gambling, so it is important to speak to a GP or StepChange for free debt advice if you think you may be struggling with your finances.

Problem gambling is defined as behaviour that causes significant distress or impairment in one’s daily functioning and is often accompanied by a range of negative emotional reactions (American Psychiatric Association 2000). It can include:

There are no FDA-approved medications to treat pathological gambling, but several types of psychotherapy can help. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of talk therapy that examines beliefs and patterns of thinking that are associated with problem gambling. For example, people with a gambling disorder may believe they are more likely to win than they really are or that certain rituals will bring them luck.