Gambling is an activity where you bet on something of value, such as a horse race or football match, with the hope of winning. It can be done for many reasons, including socialising, escaping worries or stress or to get an adrenaline rush. For some people, gambling can become a problem and it is important to know the signs of a gambling addiction. These include betting more than you can afford to lose, borrowing money and feeling addicted to the thrill of gambling.
The reason why some people gamble more than others is because of how it affects the brain. When we gamble, the brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and excited. This can be addictive, because over time it leads to us seeking more pleasure from gambling than we would do from other activities.
Some people can develop a gambling disorder because of genetic factors and coexisting mental health conditions. For example, some studies of identical twins have shown that there is a genetic link to gambling disorders. In addition, people who have anxiety or depression may be more likely to suffer from a gambling problem, and some people with PTSD find relief through gambling.
Many problems with gambling can be prevented by setting limits and following self-help tips. It is also important to recognise when the urge to gamble becomes problematic and seek help when necessary. You can find support in a number of ways, including talking to a friend or family member, calling a helpline or attending a gambling self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Another way to help yourself is to try and replace the urge to gamble with healthy behaviours. It is helpful to think about what you do when you have the urge to gamble and consider healthier alternatives, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying a new hobby. You could also try relaxing techniques or meditation to help ease the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
When you do decide to gamble, set yourself a time limit and leave when you have reached this, whether you are winning or losing. Never gamble with money that you need to save or spend on bills and rent, and make sure you balance gambling with other enjoyable activities. Avoid chasing losses, as the more you bet in order to win back your losses, the more likely you are to make bigger losses.
People can be secretive about their gambling, lying to friends and family about how much they are spending or hiding evidence of their gambling activities. This can be difficult to break, but there is help out there. You can talk to a doctor, who may suggest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to address the beliefs and habits that lead to gambling problems. This includes thinking that you are more likely to win than you really are, believing that certain rituals can bring luck and that you can recoup your losses by betting more.