Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the aim of winning. Most people think of casinos, but it’s important to remember that bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, office pools, and even betting on football matches or other sporting events are all forms of gambling. People gamble for a variety of reasons, from social to financial. But for some people, it becomes a problem.
Some people have a genetic tendency to be more susceptible to addiction, while others may experience mental health issues that can trigger harmful gambling behaviour. If you’re concerned about your gambling habits, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Speak to a debt advisor at StepChange for free, confidential advice about managing your finances.
If you have a compulsion to gamble, you can learn to change your behavior by understanding why you’re drawn to it. There are several ways to stop gambling, including attending treatment or rehabilitation programs. These programs often use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address problems with thinking, feeling and behaving associated with your gambling. You might also find that it helps to discuss your concerns with a loved one or therapist, as this can be helpful in changing negative thinking patterns.
People who have a problem with gambling are at risk of harming themselves or others, and they’re more likely to be in financial difficulty. Those who have debt are more likely to turn to gambling in an attempt to manage their money, but this can cause further stress and problems. Harmful gambling can also lead to thoughts of suicide, so if you have these thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
The brain’s reward system plays a role in gambling, as it does with other addictive behaviors like eating and sex. When we engage in these behaviors, the body releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine that makes us feel pleasure. However, these feelings are usually short-lived. This is why many people who have a problem with gambling find it difficult to quit, as they’re chasing a temporary high that’s not really sustainable.
The best way to avoid problem gambling is to limit your spending and stick to a budget. You should also try to limit the amount of time you spend gambling and don’t gamble when you’re tired or stressed. It’s also important to avoid chasing your losses, as the more you try to win back your money, the more you’ll lose. You can do this by setting a time limit for how long you want to play and leaving once that period has passed, whether you’re winning or losing. You should also avoid drinking alcohol while you’re gambling, as this can affect your judgement. If you are experiencing an urge to gamble, try distracting yourself with a different activity or talking to a friend. This may help to reduce the craving and make it easier for you to quit.