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​For many people, gambling is a harmless, occasional activity done for entertainment but for others, gambling can be a more serious problem. It's estimated that about 70 out of every 1000 people gamble at levels that are more than just occasional and thought to be risky.
Gambling addiction, harmful gambling, problem gambling or compulsive gambling are all terms used to describe the emotional difficulties people face when gambling goes from being fun, harmless entertainment to an unhealthy obsession that disrupts or damages your personal life, family life or leisure time.
What harm can gambling cause?
Harmful gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, lead to serious financial difficulties and lead you to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do.
It affects your mental and physical health increasing levels of stress, depression and/or anxiety and decreasing self-esteem. 
Is gambling a problem for you?

There are a number of signs to look out for, these include:
  • Spending more money and time on gambling than you can afford
  • Finding it hard to manage or stop your gambling
  • Having arguments with family or friends about money and gambling
  • Losing interest in usual activities or hobbies and neglecting work, family and personal needs/responsibilities
  • Always thinking or talking about gambling
  • Lying about your gambling or hiding it from other people
  • Chasing losses or gambling to get out of financial trouble
  • Gambling until all of your money is gone
  • Borrowing money, selling possessions or not paying bills in order to pay for gambling
  • Needing to gamble with more money or for a longer period of time to get the same feeling of excitement
  • Feeling anxious, worried, guilty, depressed or irritable.
Although it may feel like you are powerless to stop gambling, there are things you can do to overcome the problem, repair your relationships and finances, and regain control of your life.

Tips for safer gambling
Professional help will always increase your chance of success, but there are different things you can do to start to help yourself. These include:
  • Place a limit – limit the amount of money you will gamble in a week and then stick to it
  • Go cardless – leave the credit or debit cards at home when out at a casino or event
  • Online cap – set gambling limits and don't go over them
  • Payday – on payday, make sure all important bills are paid first before you gamble.
  • Frequency – gradually reduce the number of times you gamble in a week
  • Prepare to lose – always be prepared to lose. The 'house' always wins!
  • No savings – never spend savings on gambling, or money you can't afford
  • Borrow ban – tell mates and relatives not to lend you money – even if you ask!
  • Distraction – take up a new hobby or activity to distract from gambling
  • Spend time – spent more time with your friends and family
  • Peer support – join a support group in your local area
  • Talk about it – talk to a trusted mate or family member about your gambling
Find alternatives to gambling
To find a suitable alternative you need to try and understand what gambling offered you. For example did if fulfil an emotional need, act as pain relief, help you bury supressed emotions or enable you to escape reality?

There are different things you can do to fulfil those needs without resorting to gambling. Here are some ideas...

What gambling offers you
What else you could try
Excitement, rush of adrenaline
Try an adventure sport or something new such as mountain biking, rock climbing or go karting.
To be more social, overcome shyness and isolation
Join a class to learn a new skill, join a club of something you're interested in, connect with family and friends, try volunteering.
To numb unpleasant feelings, block out problems
Counselling or therapy can help you to manage and cope.
Boredom or loneliness
Find something you're passionate about such as art, music, sports or reading
To relax after being in a stressful environment
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, massage, listening to soothing music can help.
As little as 15 minutes of daily exercise can relieve stress. Walking in the park can be a simple thing you can do to help relax.
To solve money problems
The odds are always stacked against you so it's far better to seek help with debts – you can speak to an financial advisor or contact National Debtline which offers free, impartial and confidential debt advice (0808 808 4000)
Getting help
If you have a problem with gambling, or you know someone who gambles compulsively, support and advice is available. You may find one of the support options below suits your needs:
  • Beacon Counselling Trust (in partnership with GamCare) delivers a free counselling service in the North West for individual and families affected by problem gambling.

  • GamCare is the leading national provider of free information, advice and support for anyone affected by problem gambling. For immediate help over the phone ring the GamCare helpline on 0808 802 0133 or visit the website to access support via live chat, group chat and/or forums.

  • Self-exclusion is a scheme available to support you if you think you're spending too much time or money gambling and wish to stop for at least six months. By joining, you're letting gambling establishments know your wishes so that they can support you to stop.

  • NHS website offers information and further advice on where to get help, links to treatment centres and support groups, as well as self-help tips.

  • Be Gamble Aware provides advice and access to free, confidential help by phone or online, as well as tips.
  • Gamblers Anonymous UK runs local support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery from addiction as Alcoholics Anonymous.

  • Gordon Moody Association offers residential courses for men and women who have problems with gambling. Email or call 01384 241292 to find out more.

  • Gambling Therapy offers online support to problem gamblers and their friends and family. 

Feeling it is all too much when faced with the consequences of gambling, problem gamblers can suffer a crushing drop in self-esteem. There is emerging evidence that problem gambling can lead people to think that life is not worth living and feeling like taking their own life. If you know someone who is feeling like this it is important that you encourage them to speak to someone, let them know how you're feeling. Help is available and people recover and go on to live fulfilling lives.
Visit our suicide prevention pages for more specific advice, guidance and support if you feel that you or someone you know is at risk. 
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