Gambling is when you risk something of value, such as money, to predict the outcome of a game involving chance, like scratchcards, fruit machines or betting with friends. If you win, you get the prize – but if you lose, you lose the money you gambled. It’s a risky business, and for some people, it becomes an addiction. The problem is especially prevalent in the US, where four in five Americans say they have gambled at some point in their lives. It’s also easier than ever to gamble, as many states have legalised it or heavily regulated it. And in the digital age, it’s possible to bet on sports events or even a lottery without leaving the comfort of your own home.
In recent years, understanding of gambling and the effects of it on people has undergone a profound change. It is now generally accepted that, just like substance use disorders, there are psychological problems associated with gambling, rather than a moral failing or laziness. This has led to a shift in the way psychiatrists help those with gambling problems.
Talk to your doctor if you think your gambling is out of control. They can recommend treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps you look at your beliefs and thoughts around betting and how they may be contributing to your problem. It can help you challenge false beliefs such as that you are more likely to win, that certain rituals or items will bring you luck or that it’s easy to make back any losses.