The Dangers of Gambling

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with a chance of winning something else of value. The event may be a random outcome such as a roll of dice or a spin of the roulette wheel, or it can be an anticipated result such as a sporting event or an election result. The chances of winning are dependent on the amount of money that is put at risk and the size of the reward. Gambling can be an enjoyable pastime, but it can also cause problems such as addiction, financial crisis and social isolation. Problem gambling can affect mental and physical health, relationships and career. It can lead to debt and even homelessness. It can be triggered by mood disorders such as depression and anxiety or made worse by them.

The human brain is biologically programmed to seek rewards. Healthy behaviors such as eating, spending time with friends and family, and exercising produce the chemical dopamine, which helps us feel good. Problem gamblers use gambling as a way to get that same feeling of pleasure, but it is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings are why it is important for family and friends to reach out to a support network or attend a self-help group such as Gamblers Anonymous.

It is estimated that about 2 million U.S. adults meet the criteria for having a severe gambling disorder. Another 4-6 million Americans have a mild or moderate gambling disorder. While the numbers of people who meet the criteria for a severe problem are relatively small, gambling problems can still have a significant negative impact on a person’s life.

Problem gambling is a complex illness and requires professional treatment. Psychotherapy can help reduce symptoms of gambling disorder and restore a sense of control over one’s life. There are many different types of therapy available, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. Family therapy is also helpful and can help build stronger relationships. Credit and budgeting counseling is important to address issues that can be exacerbated by gambling disorders.

There is a strong link between gambling and suicide. If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, call 999 or visit A&E immediately. There are several ways to address a gambling disorder, including psychotherapy and medication. It is also important to address any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to the problem.

Avoid high-risk situations, such as using credit cards and taking out loans or carrying large amounts of money with you. Also, don’t use gambling venues to socialise or gamble as a reaction to emotions. Try to find a healthier way to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercise or taking up a hobby. If you are reliant on gambling to make ends meet, speak to StepChange for free debt advice. The sooner you address the issue, the easier it will be to overcome.