Gambling As a Mental Health Condition


Gambling involves risking something of value – money, property or time – for a chance to win a prize. Many people gamble for fun, but for some it becomes a problem that affects their health, relationships and finances. This is called problem gambling or compulsive gambling and is recognised as a mental health condition. In DSM-5, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, gambling disorder is placed under the category of behavioral addictions alongside substance-related disorders.

Some people may have an underlying mood disorder such as depression, stress or anxiety which can trigger gambling problems and make them worse. These problems can also make it hard for someone to seek help. Culture can also play a role, as some communities see gambling as a normal pastime and it is harder for them to recognise when their behaviour is becoming a problem.

There are many different types of gambling, including casino games such as poker, blackjack, roulette and baccarat, which can be played at brick-and-mortar casinos or online. Betting on horse and greyhound races, football accumulators and other sports events is also a form of gambling, as are lotteries, instant scratch cards and raffles. Speculation, or betting on the outcome of business, insurance or stock markets, is another form of gambling.

It is important to remember that all forms of gambling are inherently risky. Even if you are lucky enough to win big, it is likely that you will lose some of your original stake. It is therefore important to only gamble with disposable income and never use money that you need to pay bills or rent. It is also worth considering putting aside a certain amount of your disposable income to enjoy non-gambling activities, such as going to the cinema or a concert.

If you are struggling to control your gambling, there are many services available that can provide support and advice. These include helplines, face-to-face counselling and group therapy, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery program used by Alcoholics Anonymous. These services can help you break the habit of gambling and get your life back on track.

Problem gambling can cause a wide range of harms, including affecting your physical and mental health, disrupting your work or social life and causing financial difficulties. Problem gambling can also put your relationships under strain and lead to homelessness. It is therefore important to take steps to stop it before the situation gets out of hand. This can be done by identifying the warning signs and taking action. This can include avoiding gambling websites, getting rid of credit cards and hiding evidence of your gambling activity. You can also try to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble and taking up new hobbies. You can also get help for underlying issues that you are struggling with, such as family or debt therapy.