Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined, at least in part, by chance. It can involve many things, including betting on a football match, buying a lottery ticket, or playing scratchcards. The outcome of the gambling event is unknown and can be anything from winning a big prize to losing everything. Gambling is often associated with addiction, which means that the gambler cannot control or stop their behaviour.
There are several factors that may make someone more likely to develop a gambling problem. These include age – compulsive gambling tends to be more common in young people and the teenage years – sex (it is more common in men than women) – family and friend influence, and mental health problems – if there are mood swings, anxiety, depression or other mental illness, it can be harder to regulate impulses like gambling.
Psychiatrists can help people with gambling problems. Treatment can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which looks at the thoughts and beliefs that cause someone to gamble problematically e.g. believing they are more likely to win than is actually the case, or that certain rituals will bring them luck. It can also include learning healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or using relaxation techniques. It is also important to set money and time limits and never chase your losses – chasing your losses will usually result in bigger, bigger losses.