Problem Gambling


Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value (money, possessions or reputation) in the hope of winning a prize. This can be done in a number of ways, including card games, fruit machines and video-draw poker, betting on horse and greyhound races, football accumulators and other sports events, casino games like blackjack and roulette, or by speculating about business, insurance and stock markets. Gambling can be addictive and lead to problems, such as family breakdowns, health issues, loss of employment or even homelessness.

Some forms of gambling are more addictive than others, but any form of gambling can be harmful for some people. Problems with gambling can affect physical and mental health, relationships, performance at work or study and can cause serious debt and financial ruin. Problem gambling can also impact a person’s personal safety and lead to suicide. Problems with gambling can be triggered by mood disorders like depression or stress and made worse by compulsive behaviours like binge eating and substance misuse.

The reasons for gambling can vary from person to person. For some, gambling is a social activity and an enjoyable way to spend time with friends, while for others it is about winning money and the chance to change their lives. It can also be about getting that rush or feeling of excitement and escaping the everyday world. The reward system in the brain releases dopamine when you gamble, making you feel good when you win and bad when you lose. These feelings may make it difficult to stop gambling when you are losing.

Research suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking and impulsive behaviours, which can contribute to gambling addiction. Other factors that can influence a person’s ability to resist temptation and control impulses include medication, family and work environment, and culture. In some communities, gambling is seen as a normal pastime and it can be hard to recognise a problem.

Trying to overcome gambling problems can be difficult and sometimes unsuccessful, but it is important not to give up. Support groups, counselling and specialist residential treatment and rehab programmes are available for those who struggle with problem gambling. These programmes can help you learn healthier and more effective ways to cope with your emotions, reduce boredom or relieve stress, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, hobbies, or meditation.

Attempting to recover from gambling problems can be expensive, so it’s important to manage your finances and keep an eye on your credit cards and bank accounts. You can take steps to protect yourself against gambling by removing credit and debit cards from your home, having someone else in charge of your money, setting up automatic payments for your bills, closing online betting accounts, and keeping only a small amount of cash on you. It’s also a good idea to see a therapist or counsellor to understand what triggers your urges and to think about how you can solve the problem.