Whether you’re buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on the horse race or playing the pokies at your local casino, gambling involves placing something of value, such as money, on an event with an element of chance and the potential to win a larger prize. Gambling can be fun and exciting, but it’s important to stay in control of your spending. Gambling can cause harm to your mental and physical health, strain relationships, interfere with work or school, and lead to financial disaster. If you think you have a gambling problem, seek help immediately.
Some people gamble to relieve boredom, loneliness or stress. However, there are healthier ways to do this such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. If you’re gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, try seeking professional help instead.
If you’re gambling, it’s important to remember that the odds are against you and you should expect to lose some money. This is why it’s so important to set money and time limits in advance and stick to them. Never chase your losses, as this will usually lead to even greater losses. Also, don’t gamble when you’re depressed or upset, as this can make it more difficult to think clearly.
Some people may struggle to recognize a gambling problem, especially if it runs in their family. This can be due to cultural influences such as the belief that gambling is a harmless pastime, or it could be because of genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity. Studies looking at brain activity are showing that there is a link between genetics and how people respond to risk.
Pathological gambling is a serious problem that can affect anyone from any walk of life. It can ruin your family, your work and your life, leading to severe debt and even homelessness. Having a gambling problem can cause you to lie, steal and cheat in order to fund your addiction. It can also damage your relationship with your partner and children.
It’s also common for a gambling disorder to occur alongside another psychiatric diagnosis, such as anxiety, depression or an eating disorder. This is because many of the same factors can cause these disorders, including low levels of dopamine in the reward system and a tendency to rely on impulses to regulate behaviour. This is why it’s so important for people who have a gambling disorder to receive treatment and support. This may include family therapy and credit counseling. Treatment can be challenging, but it is possible to overcome a gambling disorder. It’s important to seek help as soon as you recognise that you have a problem and to learn healthy coping mechanisms. Hopefully this article has helped to make that process a little easier for you. Good luck! By: Dr. Karen Rodgers, MD, FRCS (Edin).