Gambling is a behaviour in which people stake something of value on an event that has a random outcome. Usually this is money or goods but it can also be an experience. People gamble in many places including casinos, racetracks, online, at work and in sports events. It can be very addictive and even lead to mental health problems like depression. It can also harm relationships and careers and cause debt problems. It can even result in suicide. Problem gambling can affect anyone but it is especially common among the most disadvantaged, including those in poverty.
Some people enjoy gambling and it can make them feel good when things go their way but for others it becomes a serious addiction that leads to debt, loss of employment, homelessness, family breakdown and even suicide. People who suffer from mental health issues are more likely to be at risk of harmful gambling as they may turn to it to cope with painful emotions or to escape reality. This is because these feelings can interfere with how the brain processes information and makes it harder to control impulses.
People who have a history of trauma or abuse are also at risk of gambling as they may be more likely to try to get over their pain by escaping into fantasy worlds, where they can control everything. This is because they can’t trust others and have difficulty regulating their emotions. They might also be more easily persuaded by persuasive advertising and social pressure to spend money.
There are some basic things you can do to help reduce your risk of gambling becoming a problem, including:
Don’t gamble with money that needs to be saved for bills or rent. Instead, only use your disposable income for gambling and make sure you have other activities planned that will give you a break from gambling when it becomes boring or unpleasant. Make sure you gamble only in a safe environment. Never gamble in a bar or club where there is alcohol or drugs being consumed and don’t gamble when you are feeling upset, angry or depressed. It’s also worth remembering that gambling is a form of entertainment and you should expect to lose.
It is possible to get professional help if you’re struggling with a gambling problem. Therapy can help you change the ways you think about betting and how you behave when you want to gamble. This can be done through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT looks at beliefs that have developed around gambling, such as that you are more likely to win than you really are, or that certain rituals will bring you luck. It can also help you learn to recognise when you are using gambling as a way to avoid dealing with difficult emotions.