Gambling involves betting money or something else of value on an event that is unpredictable and has a random outcome, such as a game of chance or a lottery. When gambling is done in moderation, it can be a fun and entertaining activity that can help people relieve stress and have some social interaction with friends and family. However, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with gambling and to seek professional help if you think you have a problem.
Some people can become addicted to gambling and find it hard to stop. This is known as compulsive gambling or problem gambling, and it can have many negative impacts on your life. These include:
Trying to win back lost money – many people who are addicted to gambling find it difficult to stop, and may continue to gamble in an attempt to win the money they have lost. This can lead to financial problems, bankruptcy, and even crime in some cases.
Being secretive about gambling – you may hide your gambling habits from friends and family, thinking they won’t notice or that you will surprise them with a big win. This can lead to problems in work and relationships.
Taking more risks – if you’re feeling bored, lonely or stressed, gambling can seem like a fun way to pass the time and take some risk. However, this is not a good way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings and there are healthier and safer ways of dealing with them, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practising relaxation techniques.
Feeling ashamed of your gambling – it can be hard to admit that you have a problem, and some people feel shameful about their behaviour. You may hide your gambling, try to justify it by saying you’re only gambling small amounts or that you only gamble for fun.
The thrill of winning – winning can give you a great sense of achievement and boost your confidence. You can also enjoy the escapism of casino gambling, where you can forget your worries and focus on having some fun with friends.
Scientific studies have shown that the brain’s reward circuit is activated when you gamble, particularly when you win. This is the same circuit that is stimulated by natural reinforcers such as food and sexual stimuli, and drugs of abuse, such as cocaine.
Some people who have a problem with gambling might benefit from professional help, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can address distorted beliefs about gambling, such as the belief that you are more likely to win than lose or that certain rituals can bring luck, and can teach you healthier coping skills. Other helpful services might be family or marriage counselling, career counseling, or credit counselling, depending on your needs and the specific issues caused by your gambling. You can also find support groups for people with gambling problems, and there are websites that offer advice and counselling to those who have a problem.