Gambling involves risking money or other valuable items in an attempt to predict the outcome of a game of chance, such as playing a slot machine or buying a scratchcard. If you win, you receive the prize – usually cash – that you’ve bet on, while if you lose, you forfeit your money. There are many different types of gambling, and each one has its own rules and regulations.
Problem gambling is a behavioral addiction that can affect people of all ages, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of problem gambling so that you can seek help if needed. Problematic gambling isn’t always about the amount of money that you lose or gain, but rather the underlying issues that drive your gambling behavior. These can include:
Identify the triggers that lead to gambling. These may be financial, emotional, social, or work-related. The key is to identify the triggering events that cause you to gamble, and then work on reducing or eliminating them. For example, if you’re gambling out of boredom, try exercising, reading a book or playing with a pet instead.
Strengthen your support network. You can find support through friends and family, and also by joining a peer support group for problem gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Other options include starting a new hobby or sport, attending an educational class, or volunteering for a good cause.
Gamble with disposable income only, not money that you need to pay bills and rent. Also, don’t use money that you have set aside to save for emergencies. It’s also a good idea to spend some of your time gambling just for fun and not as an attempt to win. You might enjoy it and find that it helps you relax.
Consider talking to a therapist if you have an addictive personality, which is often rooted in childhood traumas and upbringing. This type of therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and it can help you address negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors and change them for the better.
Research has shown that the reward centers of your brain are stimulated when you engage in healthy activities, such as spending time with loved ones or eating a nutritious meal. This is because these experiences trigger a natural chemical reaction in the brain, which gives you pleasure and makes you want to continue doing them. When you engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as gambling, you’re causing your brain to over-stimulate these reward centers.
There are a number of potential benefits to gambling, including socialization and mental development. However, if you’re not in control of your gambling and it’s affecting your finances or relationships, it may be time to seek help. Talk to an adviser at StepChange, our free debt charity service.