Gambling is an activity where people risk money or something else of value on the outcome of an event that involves chance. This can include betting on sports games, playing card games, scratchcards and fruit machines and betting with friends. It is a complex and dangerous activity that can have harmful consequences for some people. The term gambling can also refer to activities that involve skill that may reduce the odds of winning but cannot eliminate them completely, such as betting on horse races or playing a game of poker.
In some cases, gambling can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health, hurt relationships, cause you to get into debt and even result in homelessness. It is important to recognise that you may be struggling and seek help if it’s having a significant effect on your life. This is especially the case if your gambling is damaging your health, getting you into debt or affecting relationships. It’s also worth addressing any underlying mental health issues which can make people more vulnerable to harmful gambling.
There is no single cause of gambling problems and they can affect people from all walks of life. But some factors, such as mood disorders and coping styles, can increase your likelihood of developing harmful gambling behaviour. This is particularly true if you have a close relative who has a problem with gambling. It is also important to consider your environment and the culture around gambling in the areas where you live. For example, some areas have more casinos and other forms of gambling, and these can influence your exposure to them.
It is also important to recognise that gambling can provide a false sense of control. Research shows that when people gamble, their brains release dopamine, which makes them feel good. This can lead to them chasing their losses and ignoring any warning signs that they are losing too much or that they are becoming addicted to gambling.
Another factor that can increase your vulnerability to harmful gambling is an underlying mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety. These can trigger or make worse problem gambling and can have other harmful effects on your health, such as causing poor performance at work or school, substance abuse, debt or suicide.
The biggest step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that you have one. It’s difficult to do, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money and damaged relationships. But there are many ways to get support, including joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous.
You can also take steps to strengthen your support network and find new ways to relieve boredom and stress. Try exercising, socializing with non-gambling friends, learning a new skill, or taking up a hobby that isn’t related to gambling. Alternatively, if you’re struggling to pay your bills, get in touch with StepChange, our free, confidential debt advice service. It’s available 24/7 and could help you on the road to recovery from gambling harms.