Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, merchandise or property) on an uncertain outcome of a game or contest, where skill and chance are equally weighted. It can range from scratchcards bought by people with little money to the sophisticated casino gambling practised by the wealthy for both profit and pleasure. It is generally considered to be an addictive behaviour and is a major source of financial problems, often resulting in family break-ups and homelessness. It can also cause depression and has been linked to a variety of mental health disorders.

Many people enjoy the thrill of playing a game, especially when they win, but for some this is just the start and can quickly turn into an addiction. There are several factors that can contribute to an individual becoming addicted to gambling; some of these include genetic predisposition, the impact of gambling on a person’s finances, the way they view their life and the use of gambling as an escape from boredom or stress.

The reason why it’s difficult to stop is that gambling stimulates the brain, just as taking a drug would, and it can lead to changes in the reward pathway. When an individual experiences a big win or series of wins they experience the ‘rush’ that comes from the release of dopamine. This can lead to the illusion of control, as they feel that they have somehow done something right – such as throwing the dice in a certain way or wearing a lucky item of clothing.

This is a result of the fact that our brains are wired to look for patterns, and so we can overestimate the probability that something will happen based on our past experiences. This is why people who have been successful in the lottery or at a casino can convince themselves that their chances of winning are higher than they really are.

People who have experienced a series of losses can become more sensitive to the feeling of disappointment, and can be tempted to try to make up for their losses. This is called ‘chasing their losses’ and can be extremely dangerous, particularly if you are driving a car. It is also common for those who have a problem with gambling to hide their activity from friends and family, which can lead to further problems.

If you think that your own gambling habits are causing harm, there are a number of organisations who offer support, assistance and counselling. These services can help you to control your gambling and regain control of your life, as well as offering support for your family and friends. For more information, please check out our Safeguarding Courses. They are perfect for anyone who is working with vulnerable people and can help you understand what signs to look out for, as well as highlighting the procedures that should be followed in this area.


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