Whether it’s betting on sports events, scratch cards, roulette, poker or slots – in a casino, at the track, online or on the street – gambling involves placing a bet on an event with an uncertain outcome. It can be a fun diversion, but it’s also possible for problem gambling to strain relationships and interfere with work life. And it can be very expensive if you’re not careful. Problem gamblers often run up huge debts and may even steal money to finance their addiction. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to reduce the risk of becoming a problematic gambler.
Getting the facts about gambling
It’s important to understand the psychology behind problem gambling, so you can make informed choices. While most people are aware that gambling is a form of risk-taking, not many know exactly what happens in the brain when someone gambles.
In fact, the science behind gambling is so complex that psychologists and behavioral economists haven’t fully understood how it works. However, researchers do know that gambling triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. This can lead to addiction, even for those who only gamble occasionally and do so in moderation.
There are four main reasons why people gamble. It could be for social reasons – they play with friends or family, it’s part of the atmosphere in a pub, for example – or for financial reasons, such as thinking about what they would do if they won the lottery. Other reasons include coping with unpleasant feelings or stress, such as after a bad day at work or arguments with spouses or friends, and trying to relieve boredom.
Gambling is also a popular form of entertainment and is widely available, including in the UK. In fact, it’s estimated that over $10 trillion is wagered globally each year. However, most of this is illegal.
Problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of age, background or income. In fact, it can be as prevalent amongst the middle class as it is in low-income communities.
If you have a friend or loved one with a gambling problem, it’s important to help them see the severity of their behavior and seek professional help. While counselling and support groups can’t cure a gambling disorder, they can help someone recognize the signs of problems and address underlying mood disorders. This can make it easier to stop the behaviors. It’s also important to set boundaries about money management and avoid tempting a gambler by providing them with access to credit or other assets. You can also help by seeking counseling for your own mood disorders, as these can be triggers for compulsive gambling. This can help you find healthier ways to cope with your emotions and alleviate boredom. You can try activities like exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.