Gambling Addiction – How to Spot the Signs of Problem Gambling

Gambling Addiction – How to Spot the Signs of Problem Gambling

Gambling is when you risk money or something else of value on an event that involves chance, such as a football match or scratchcard. You can gamble in casinos, on TV or online. People gamble for different reasons. Some do it to win big, but others do it for the thrill or to escape boredom or stress. Some people become addicted to gambling and it can affect their health, relationships, work or study. They may also end up in serious debt or even lose their homes. It can be difficult to spot the signs of problem gambling and get help, but there are things you can do to stay safe.

A good tip is to start with a fixed amount of money that you can afford to lose, then stick to it. If you’re in a casino, always tip the dealers – they earn very little and it’s nice to show them some appreciation for their hard work. And never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose – it will only make you miserable if you lose.

The brain’s reward system is affected by genetics and environment, so some people are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. They may be predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, or they might have a lower ability to control their emotions and weigh up risk. People who have a family history of gambling problems are also more likely to develop an addiction. And if you come from a culture that views gambling as normal, it can be harder to recognise when you have a problem.

People with an addiction to gambling can find it very difficult to stop. They will feel compelled to keep on gambling, even though they’re losing more and more money. They often blame their behaviour on ‘luck’ or ‘bad genes’, but the reality is that their addiction is caused by a combination of psychological and environmental factors.

Gambling is not the same as taking drugs – you don’t have to swallow anything, but the action of betting triggers the same dopamine response as taking cocaine or heroin. This is because gambling, like drugs, provides a temporary sense of pleasure and excitement.

There are many causes of gambling addiction, but some of the main ones include an early big win, the size of that win, boredom susceptibility, a poor understanding of random events, escape coping and stressful life experiences. These are all issues that can be addressed by therapy and support services. For example, there are specialised gambling clinics and residential treatment programmes, which provide round-the-clock care and support for people who cannot stop gambling despite severe financial, emotional or social difficulties. Alternatively, you can seek help for yourself or someone you know by calling an alcohol and drug helpline. You can also visit a GP or mental health professional for advice.