Gambling is a fun and social activity, but it’s also a risky one. People gamble for a variety of reasons – some because they enjoy the thrill of winning, others because it relieves boredom or stress, and some do it to socialise with friends. It is important to recognise if gambling is causing harm. Signs of harmful gambling include lying to friends and family, hiding money or credit cards, and relying on others to fund your gambling activities. People with a mental health condition may also experience harmful gambling behaviours.
Problem gambling involves a range of negative effects on your life, including financial difficulties and problems with relationships and work. These difficulties can be difficult to overcome, but help is available. Talking with a trained counsellor can help you understand why you are gambling and learn how to change your behaviour. There are different types of counselling, including cognitive behaviour therapy and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a general term for several treatment techniques that aim to change unhealthy emotions and thoughts. It takes place with a trained and licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker.
When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you excited and gives you pleasure. Dopamine is released when you win, but it is also produced when you lose. This can make it hard to tell when you’ve lost enough and stop. In addition, some people are genetically predisposed to gamble because of how their brains work. This can be exacerbated by stress or other factors.
If you are concerned that a loved one is developing a gambling problem, be patient and don’t jump to conclusions. It can take time to recover from a gambling addiction, and it is normal for someone to go through periods of good and bad luck. You can support them by listening and offering emotional support. Remember that they did not choose to become addicted and they probably don’t realise how the game works.
Gambling is not a lucrative way to make money and shouldn’t be seen as a way to get out of financial trouble. It is important to set a budget before you play and stick to it. Never borrow money to gamble and don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. If you are having a losing streak, it’s a good idea to step away and come back later when your mind is clearer. You should also be aware of how much you’re spending on casino comps and other gambling rewards, and try to minimise the use of these. Also, find healthy ways to cope with unpleasant feelings and deal with boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby. The Better Health Channel has more information about gambling.