A gambling addiction is a mental health condition that can cause harm to a person’s life, including their relationships, work performance and health. It can also lead to debt and even homelessness. Many people gamble to relieve unpleasant emotions or to socialise, but there are healthier and safer ways to do so. If you’re suffering from a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. There are a number of treatment options, including outpatient and residential care, to help you recover.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. It includes all forms of betting and speculative activities, such as casino games, scratchcards, lotteries and sports betting. Traditionally, it has been considered to be immoral and illegal, but understanding of gambling and its adverse consequences has undergone significant change. For example, pathological gambling is now included in the diagnostic category of impulse control disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s 1994 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (formerly known as the DSM).

Almost all forms of gambling involve an element of risk and uncertainty. Some types of gambling, such as card games and fruit machines, are more likely to lead to addiction than others, but the risk of addiction is present in all forms of gambling, regardless of their specific components. There are a few key things to keep in mind when gambling, such as:

It’s important to know your limits and to stop before it becomes too much of a problem. It’s also crucial to avoid chasing your losses. Trying to win back the money you’ve lost will usually make the situation worse, and it’s a common trap for gambling addicts. Instead, learn to manage unpleasant feelings in healthy ways, like exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practice relaxation techniques.

Some people may find it hard to recognise a gambling addiction, especially if they are hiding their activities from their family and friends. They might be reluctant to admit their gambling is causing them problems and try to justify their behaviour by blaming other factors, such as a lack of time, stress at work, relationship difficulties or financial woes.

It’s also important to be aware of the risks associated with certain types of gambling, such as online gaming and social media gaming. These sites offer simulated gambling, where players can play with or against their friends in real-time and earn virtual goods. These goods, often called “skins,” are valued based on their rarity and can be traded for real cash or prizes. Many gaming influencers promote skin gambling on their channels. This can cause harm to young people, particularly if they are exposed to images of gambling-related harm and addictive behaviours. This is known as ‘socially harmful gambling’.