How to Recognise a Gambling Problem
Gambling involves betting something of value on an event with a chance of winning something else of value. It may also include wagering money on a future contingent event not under the gambler’s control or influence, such as winning a prize in a lottery. However, gambling does not include bona fide business transactions valid under contract law and life, health, or property insurance.
It is estimated that about $10 trillion in legal wagers are placed each year worldwide (illegal gambling probably exceeds this amount). Lottery games are the most popular form of gambling, accounting for around two-thirds of all legally wagered money. The other major forms of gambling include horse racing and dog races, sports betting, casino games, card games, bingo, and scratch-off tickets.
When a person wins money in a game of chance, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which gives the player pleasure. This makes people want to seek out pleasure, even if it is harmful, and often leads to unhealthy behaviors.
While some people can enjoy gambling as a recreational activity, for others it becomes an addiction. Problem gambling is a serious mental health condition, and can cause significant problems in people’s lives. It affects the way people think, feel and behave and can lead to other problems such as depression, substance misuse or suicide.
The signs of a problem with gambling can be difficult to recognise. They can include:
Putting more money into gambling than you can afford to lose. Trying to win back losses by gambling more. Using credit cards or other loans to fund your gambling. Putting your work, relationships or education at risk because of your gambling. Continuing to gamble even after it has harmed your relationships, finances, or health.
Some people who have a gambling problem try to hide their gambling habits, and may lie to family members, therapists or other professionals about the extent of their involvement. They might also attempt to cover up their addiction by committing illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud or theft in order to fund their gambling. They might also rely on friends or family to lend them money or replace the money they have lost while gambling.
There are many ways to manage a gambling addiction, including support groups, counselling, and self-help tips. If you’re worried about your gambling, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Speak to StepChange, who provide free debt advice.