Gambling is when you risk something of value, such as money or other possessions, on an event with an uncertain outcome. It can be as simple as betting with friends, or it can be more formal and involve placing a bet with an organisation that agrees on the rules for winning or losing and what the prize will be. The more formal gambling activities are generally regulated and can include casino games, sports betting and lottery games.
A gambling addiction can cause serious problems in all areas of your life. It can ruin your relationships, drain your finances and make it difficult to work or study. It can also lead to criminal activity such as fraud, stealing or even murder. If you have a problem with gambling, there are many things that you can do to help yourself. You can learn to stop gambling, control your spending and get professional help.
In some cases, you may be able to overcome your gambling problem on your own. But in others, you might need to seek help from family and friends, or a qualified professional. The first step is to talk about your gambling problem with someone you trust. This could be a friend, a member of your family or a trusted community agency worker. You can also try to reduce your financial risks by getting rid of credit cards, arranging for automatic payments from your bank or closing online betting accounts. You can also make sure that your gambling does not take the place of other hobbies and recreational activities.
The science behind gambling is complicated, but the basic idea is that players are stimulated by rewards that they can’t predict. This stimulates the brain in a similar way to drugs or alcohol. It can lead to compulsive gambling, which is a recognised mental health condition and can be very dangerous.
To control your gambling, start by setting a time limit for yourself before you gamble and then stick to it. Keep in mind that it is not a good way to earn money, and don’t chase your losses – the more you bet, the more likely you are to lose. You can also reduce the urge to gamble by learning more about how to manage your emotions and finding healthier ways of resolving boredom or anxiety, such as exercising, socialising with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques. You can also reduce the temptation to gamble by avoiding places where you might be tempted, and making it harder to access your money by controlling your spending or keeping only a small amount of cash on you at all times. You can read more about how to control your spending in the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’. Lastly, consider seeking professional help from family therapy, marriage counseling or credit counselling if your gambling is causing harm. Then, fill the hole that gambling has left in your life with new, healthy hobbies and activities.