Gambling is an activity in which you risk something of value (like money or property) on an event based solely on chance. There is a lot of variation in gambling, from betting on sports teams or scratchcards to online casinos or even lottery games. While some people can gamble responsibly, others can develop a gambling problem, causing problems with work, health and relationships. In some cases, gambling can also trigger thoughts of suicide and should always be treated seriously. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
The reason why many people struggle with gambling is that the activity is addictive, and some of the same brain regions are activated when you play, as when you spend time with loved ones or eat a delicious meal. The reward centre of the brain is stimulated by these activities, and it triggers a feeling of pleasure in your body. This is why it is so hard to stop gambling, even when you’re losing a lot of money.
In addition to the chemical changes, there are other factors that can contribute to problematic gambling. These include:
Financial difficulties: Often gambling can cause debt problems, and this can have a devastating effect on your wellbeing. It is important to seek help if you have any debt problems, speak to StepChange for free, confidential advice.
A mental health issue: Those with a mental health condition are more at risk of harmful gambling as they may use it to distract themselves from their feelings or to feel better about themselves. This can be exacerbated by stress, depression or anxiety.
Personality traits and coexisting conditions: Gambling can be a way to fill an emotional void or make up for a lack of fulfilment in your life, but it can become a dangerous habit that takes over. It’s important to find other ways to get the rewards you need from your life, such as a fulfilling career or family life.
How to be a responsible gambler
The first step in becoming a responsible gambler is to only ever gamble with money that you can afford to lose. It’s also a good idea to only gamble with disposable income, not money you need to save for bills or rent. You should never rely on other people to fund your gambling, and you should avoid downplaying or lying to friends and family about your gambling habits.
Lastly, you should set and stick to a budget, limit your access to credit cards, and make sure to close all of your online gambling accounts. It’s also a good idea not to gamble while under any kind of influence, like alcohol or drugs. If you’re struggling with an addiction, contact a support group like GamCare or Gamblers Anonymous for guidance and support. Having a supportive network of friends and family can also be key to recovery. Finally, try to reduce your stress levels and address any other underlying mental health issues you might have.