Gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the intent to win a prize. This can include betting on sports events or games, playing bingo, buying lottery tickets and scratchcards, and even office pools. It is important to recognise that the problem of gambling can affect people of all ages and that it can have a wide range of negative consequences, including damage to relationships, work and study performance, financial ruin and homelessness.
Some people develop a gambling habit because they are depressed or anxious, while others may have a genetic predisposition to it, which can be exacerbated by environmental triggers such as stressful life events or working in a casino, betting shop or arcade. However, the problem can also be caused by a combination of factors, including poor money management, poor emotional regulation and addictive behaviours.
The behaviours that cause problem gambling are complex and can be difficult to change, but many people find success by focusing on the underlying causes, such as irrational beliefs about winning or losing, the use of gambling as an escape from boredom or stress, and the use of alcohol and other drugs to help them feel better. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be used to teach people how to identify and challenge these irrational beliefs, as well as learning healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings.
When you gamble, your brain produces a dopamine response that rewards you when you are successful. This is similar to how you get rewarded when you shoot a basketball into the net and your score rises, but it can be dangerously addictive if you are not able to control your betting habits.
Many people who have a gambling addiction try to minimise it or deny that they are having problems, and some will hide their gambling activity from friends and family. However, a range of services offer support, assistance and counselling for people who are suffering from harm associated with their gambling habits, and some will provide inpatient or residential treatment for severe cases.
If you are concerned about your gambling, or if it is affecting your health, work, family and relationships, please contact us for confidential advice and support. We can refer you to local services and can provide information about gambling support groups. You can also seek professional help through specialist clinics and charities that specialise in treating gambling-related problems. They can also provide support for your family and friends. These services can be found through your GP or local health and wellbeing service. If you are at risk of gambling addiction, you can also access free or low cost treatment through the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 802 1144. This service is available 24 hours a day. You can also speak to someone in confidence by calling the Samaritans on 08457 909090. You can also access inpatient and residential treatment or rehab programmes for people with severe gambling addictions, but this is only suitable if you are committed to seeking help.