Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. It can take many forms, including lotteries, scratch-off tickets, card games, dice, table games, video poker, and slot machines. It is important to remember that gambling is not always fun and there is a risk of losing money. If someone is gambling to escape from reality, or if their gambling is causing harm to themselves or others, it may be time to seek help.
Often, people are unable to control their urges to gamble. This can have a negative impact on their personal relationships, work and study performances, and health. In extreme cases, it can lead to debt and homelessness. This can have a ripple effect and affect family and friends too. In order to stop, it is vital that people make a decision to do so and then act on it. It is also useful to talk about problem gambling with someone who will not judge them, such as a family member or professional counsellor. It is also important to reduce financial risk factors, for example by avoiding credit cards and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand. It is also beneficial to find new hobbies and interests to fill the gap that is left when you stop gambling.
Adolescents may be at particular risk of problem gambling. This is because they are influenced by their peers and may be encouraged to gamble. They may also be more likely to have a mental health disorder which can contribute to their gambling problems. For example, they might have depression or anxiety.
It is also important to recognise that gambling can be used as a form of self-medication. This is because gambling can trigger feelings of euphoria, which can be linked to the brain’s reward system. This can be particularly problematic for adolescents who have mental health problems.
Another issue is that gambling can become addictive because it is very difficult to quit. Unlike drugs, which can be physically stopped with medication, it is much harder to stop gambling. However, there are treatments available for those who have a gambling addiction. These include group and individual counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and residential treatment centres. Some of these offer round-the-clock support.
If you think that your or a loved one’s gambling is out of control, it is important to seek help. You can speak to a family member or friend, or call the GamCare helpline. There is also a range of self-help guides that can help you to deal with your problem. It is also worth seeking advice from a GP or a specialist in gambling addiction. They can advise you on what the best treatment options are for you. You can find a list of recommended GPs by using our GP directory. You can also visit the Better Health Channel’s ‘find support’ page to see the services that are available near you.