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What is gambling?

  • You have uncontrollable or intense desire to gamble
  • You regret how much you’ve spent or gambled after a session
  • Gambling is getting in the way of your everyday life or relationships
  • You find yourself becoming secretive about your gambling 
  • You’re struggling financially because of how much you gamble


It can feel like gambling is everywhere, from ads on the TV and internet,  to the fruit machine at the pub, when you’re struggling with gambling, it can be hard to avoid. While some people gamble every now and again, the act of gambling can be very addictive and it’s estimated around 430,000 people in the UK have a gambling problem. 

The anticipation and thrill of gambling can create a natural high that can become addictive and, with the internet now making gambling more accessible, there is a higher danger of gambling behaviours getting out of hand and leading to financial, emotional and relationship problems.

Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, poker, or fruit machines — in a casino or online — problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work and lead to severe financial problems. With the right help, gambling addiction can be overcome. The first step is recognising and acknowledging the problem.

How can gambling affect your mental health?

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, can involve an emotional impulse that is hard to resist. Compulsive gamblers can keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Like any addiction, compulsive gambling can be reduced with a range of psychological and therapeutic approaches (including cognitive-behavioural therapy), so feel safe in the knowledge that there is a way out of gambling addiction, even if you may feel that you have nowhere to turn.

Gambling can be a problem, even without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that interferes with your life. This can entail a preoccupation with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences. Problem gambling can be helped in the same way as addictive gambling.


If you’re struggling with gambling you may feel some of the following: 

  • Angry at yourself and the situation you’re in
  • Overwhelmed 
  • Frustrated
  • Stressed about the future 
  • Worried about your friends and family
  • Worthless
  • Depression
  • An uncontrollable need to gamble again 
  • Financial worries 
  • Denial 
  • Suicidal thoughts

Why do people get addicted to gambling?

We can become addicted to anything – shopping, sex, coffee, sugar, the list is endless and not limited to alcohol and drugs. Addiction is defined as a compulsion to use a substance, or perform a certain behaviour in order to feel good or avoid feeling bad. Addictions come into two categories, physical and psychological. 

Anyone can become addicted to something, but there are often triggers which make us more susceptible. These may include trauma, abuse, stress, self-esteem issues, or difficulty at school or work. One misconception is that all addictions are severe, however there you can have a mild addiction.

Where can I find help?

Specialised addiction services that focus mainly on substance misuse will often also help with gambling problems. They use similar approaches to deal with gambling addictions to those that they use with substance misuse.

  • Talk to CALM from 5pm to midnight everyday. Our professional helpline workers are there to talk and to help you find ways to move forward. Calls and webchats are free, anonymous, non-judgemental and confidential. 
  • Outside of these hours, calls the Samaritans on 116 123 
  • Contact your GP for an appointment


5pm-midnight | free | confidential | Anonymous

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