A common activity, gambling is an action where people bet something of value (such as money) on an uncertain event that may result in either loss or gain. It is an addictive and harmful habit that can lead to financial, social and psychological problems for the gambler and their significant others. It has been compared to substance addiction and is classified as a mental health disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Gambling affects our reward centres in the brain. Humans are biologically wired to seek rewards, whether that’s the satisfaction of eating a delicious meal, spending time with loved ones, or even winning big at a casino. These experiences trigger the release of a chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel happy. However, when gambling is done excessively, it can lead to the brain becoming accustomed to the rewards and not feeling as happy or satisfied after repeated sessions. This is what’s referred to as building a tolerance.
In order to prevent the negative impacts of gambling, it’s important to understand what causes it. Research shows that there are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing a problem, including genetic and pre-existing conditions. It’s also important to recognise the warning signs of a gambling problem. These include downplaying or lying about your gambling behaviour, relying on other people to fund your gambling habits, and hiding evidence of your gambling.
Getting help for a gambling problem is essential if you want to overcome it. There are a variety of treatment options, including outpatient and residential programs, that can help you break the cycle of gambling. These programs offer round-the-clock support to help you learn healthier coping strategies and overcome your cravings. The biggest step towards overcoming your addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Once you’ve made that decision, reach out to your family and friends for support. Joining a support group is another great way to find encouragement and share your struggles with other people who are also struggling with gambling addiction. These groups often follow a 12-step recovery program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, which can be especially helpful for those with severe gambling addictions.
If you’re prone to gambling, it can be helpful to budget your money ahead of time. Set how much you’re willing to spend each week, and try to stick to that limit. Don’t treat gambling as a source of income, and only bet with money that you can afford to lose. It’s a good idea to take out only cash and leave your credit cards at home. This will help you avoid temptation and ensure that you don’t exceed your betting limits. If you’re a beginner, start with small bets and work your way up. Ensure that you’re only gambling with money that belongs to your entertainment budget, not your phone bill or rent. It’s also important not to chase your losses, as this will usually lead to bigger and bigger losses.