Gambling Disorders


The act of wagering something of value on an event involving chance, where instances of strategy are discounted. It includes the use of money, property or other valuables to predict the outcome of a game involving random events such as lottery tickets, scratchcards, casino games, sports betting and horse racing.

Gambling is not an uncommon activity, but for some people it can become a serious problem, leading to financial problems, family breakdowns, poor health and even death. The majority of people who gamble do so without any issues, but a small percentage develop a gambling disorder – an illness described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) as persistent and recurrent gambling behaviour associated with substantial distress or impairment.

In addition, the impact of gambling can be felt beyond the individual gambler, affecting their families, friends and communities. It can also cause damage to the economy and lead to social problems, such as antisocial behavior and crime.

While some people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder than others, there are many reasons why it can occur. It can be an escape from negative emotions, such as depression or anxiety, or a way to deal with complex life events. It can also be a way to boost self-esteem or feel more confident. People with a history of substance or alcohol abuse are at greater risk of developing a gambling addiction.

The ‘high’ that comes from winning can make some people continue to gamble, even when they are in financial trouble. It can also make the ‘low’ of losing a lot more debilitating, especially when a large sum of money is lost. This can make a person more determined to win again, which leads to dangerous and addictive behaviours.

There are many types of treatment for gambling disorders, which can include psychological therapy, financial counselling and help to get back on track with finances. It is important to address any underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, that may be contributing to the gambling problem. This can be done by seeking help for these disorders, which will help to rebalance brain chemistry and reduce the urges to gamble.

There are also many non-medical ways to help someone with a gambling problem, such as community support groups and family therapy. The most important thing is to recognise the issue, and seek help for yourself or a loved one as soon as possible. If you are concerned about your or a friend’s gambling habits, please contact your local addiction services unit. They will be able to provide further information and support. You can also find more information on the National Problem Gambling Helpline. You can call them on 0800 107 8790. They are available to answer calls from 7am – 10pm Monday to Sunday. The service is free to use and is confidential. The website also has links to organisations that can offer further support. The National Problem Gambling Helpline is a joint initiative between the Department of Health and the National Lottery.