What is Gambling Disorder?

Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. It can involve any game in which a person stakes something of value for the possibility of winning more. It can include sports betting, games of chance, lottery tickets and scratchcards.

For most people, gambling is not a problem and they enjoy it as an enjoyable recreational activity. But for a small percentage of people, gambling becomes a serious addiction. When this occurs, it is referred to as gambling disorder. People who have gambling disorder often experience significant distress and impairment in their daily lives. This can lead to serious financial problems, loss of employment and relationships, and a decline in their physical and mental health. It can also affect their children and family members.

Symptoms of gambling disorders are similar to those of other types of addictive behaviours. They may include:

Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling. Continuing to gamble despite negative consequences, such as jeopardising or losing money. Using gambling as a way to cope with unpleasant emotions or to unwind. Continuing to gamble even when there is little hope of a positive outcome, such as after experiencing a relationship breakup or a stressful work situation. Taking on debt or borrowing money to fund gambling activities. Lying to friends and family about the extent of their involvement with gambling. Returning to gamble after experiencing a financial loss and often upping the bets in an attempt to make back losses (chasing one’s losses).

The causes of gambling problems can vary from person to person. It is possible that the development of gambling disorders is related to underlying mood conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety. It is also possible that other risk factors for gambling disorders, such as a family history of addiction and a lack of social support, contribute to its development.

Although it is relatively rare for someone to develop gambling disorder, it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms. It is also essential to seek help for any underlying conditions that might be contributing to the gambling behaviours, such as mood disorders and substance misuse.

It is also important to remember that your loved ones did not choose to become addicted to gambling, and they likely don’t realise that their behaviour is problematic. It is a very difficult behaviour to stop and many people need the support of others to do so. Seeking professional treatment and support can help them reclaim their lives.