Gambling involves putting something of value at risk in a game with a chance element, such as placing a bet on a football team to win a match or playing scratchcards. People can gamble for many reasons, including socialising, relaxing and escaping worries or stress. However, gambling can also be harmful to our mental health, and some people become addicted. If you have trouble controlling your gambling, seek help from a specialist or support group.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by a recurrent pattern of uncontrollable and maladaptive patterns of behaviour. The disorder can affect anyone, but it is more common in men and younger people. Symptoms can begin in adolescence or early adulthood and may develop gradually over time. PG often runs in families and can be triggered by events such as trauma or social inequality. It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of a gambling disorder, as it can cause serious harm to personal relationships, finances and career, as well as mental health.

Psychiatry in the UK offers individual and family therapy to address problems with gambling. Several types of treatment are available, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic counselling and family therapy. Those with severe cases of a gambling disorder can benefit from inpatient or residential treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Despite being a centuries old activity, there is still much we don’t know about gambling. This is partly because longitudinal studies of gambling are rare, and difficult to conduct. Nevertheless, they are vital in understanding how factors change and exacerbate gambling participation over time, as well as helping us infer causality.