Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something of greater value. It can be done in many forms, from placing a bet on an outcome of a sporting event to putting money on an upcoming lottery draw. Gambling has both positive and negative impacts on people’s lives, and it can lead to serious financial problems if not addressed early. If you have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible to avoid further harm to yourself and those around you. The first step is recognising that you have a problem, which can be difficult for someone with an addiction to admit. This can feel like a huge step, especially if you’ve already lost money or your relationships have become strained as a result of your gambling. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and that others have overcome similar issues.
It’s also important to recognise what triggers your gambling behaviour, and to try and reduce these triggers as much as possible. For example, if you’re often gambling after work or after having arguments with your partner, it might be worth looking for healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and cope with boredom such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or finding a new hobby.
Another common trigger is the urge to ‘chase’ your losses. Chasing your losses can lead to a vicious cycle of gambling as you attempt to make back the money you’ve lost. Ultimately, this can have a devastating impact on your finances, your mental health, and your relationships.
Identifying your gambling triggers is important, but it’s also important to set limits and put structures in place to stop you from gambling. For example, only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, and never use money that you need to pay bills or rent. It may be helpful to talk about your gambling with a friend or family member who doesn’t have an addiction, and to find a professional counsellor who specialises in gambling-related issues.
Longitudinal studies are an excellent way to understand the effects of gambling over a prolonged period of time. However, they can be very expensive and time-consuming to conduct, and can suffer from a number of limitations including sample attrition and measurement error.
When dealing with a loved one who has a gambling problem, it’s vital to be firm and not let them make excuses for their behaviour. If they continue to spend more and more of your joint finances, you may need to take control of your own finances in order to protect them. You should also consider seeking debt advice, as escalating debt can have serious and lasting consequences. If you are struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential advice.