For some people, gambling can be a harmless pastime. Others, however, are not so lucky and find that gambling can have serious consequences for their mental and physical health, relationships with family and friends, work or study performance and financial situation. It can even lead to debt and homelessness. There is a strong link between mood disorders such as depression, stress or substance abuse and gambling problems. Addressing these underlying issues can help to reduce the risk of gambling harm.
Gambling involves betting something of value on a random event that has the potential to produce a prize. This may include scratchcards, fruit machines, betting with friends or sports events. It can be a fun way to spend time and can provide a rush when you win. But it’s important to understand that gambling is not a lucrative way to make money.
Problem gambling affects people of all ages and backgrounds, but it tends to be more common amongst those with lower socioeconomic status. It can seem particularly attractive to individuals who are struggling financially, as the promise of quick money often outweighs any financial risk. In fact, the poorest neighborhoods have the highest rate of problem gambling.
People who have an addictive personality are more likely to develop a gambling problem. This is because they experience a high level of reward when they gamble, and this reward can trigger cravings and compulsions. It can also interfere with the brain’s normal functioning, particularly in areas responsible for judgment and controlling strong drives. Research has shown that problem gamblers have less stimulation in the prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain associated with impulse control and decision-making.
Having too much debt can cause a person to gamble to try and earn extra money to pay off the debt, which often leads to more borrowing. It can be very difficult to stop this cycle, and it’s a good idea to get debt advice. It’s also a good idea to budget for any gambling you do, so that you know how much you can afford to lose.
Try to avoid gambling when you’re depressed, stressed or upset. It’s harder to make good decisions when you’re feeling this way, so you could end up losing more than you’ve won. If you have a problem with gambling, seek help from your GP or a counsellor. They can help you break the cycle and find healthier ways to deal with your emotions. They can also suggest ways to reduce your financial risk, such as not using credit cards and avoiding gambling venues and TABs. Also, make sure you’re getting enough rest and exercise, and try to do other enjoyable activities to distract yourself from gambling.