Gambling involves risking something of value on an event whose outcome is determined by chance or skill. It can include placing bets on sports events, scratchcard games, lotteries and other games of chance. Some people may be able to manage their gambling well, but others can’t. When this becomes a problem, it can strain relationships, interfere with work and lead to financial disaster. A gambling addiction can also lead to illegal activities such as stealing money or selling possessions to fund a wager.
The main factor in gambling addiction is a chemical change to the brain’s neurotransmitters. This change is triggered by repeated exposure to gambling. Over time, a person’s reward centre in the brain becomes less sensitive to the pleasurable effects of gambling. This means that they have to gamble more and more to experience the same level of pleasure. This can lead to a cycle of losses and debts that leads to despair and even criminal activity.
Another reason for the development of gambling addiction is an unhealthy relationship with money. Many people use gambling as a way to relieve unpleasant emotions or boredom. It can be difficult to break the habit, especially if someone has been doing it for a long time. However, there are healthier ways to deal with unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying relaxation techniques. Getting enough sleep is also important for mental health.
A problem with gambling can be extremely serious, and it affects people from all walks of life. It can affect work, family and social life, and cause people to do things they never would have dreamed of doing. Some people even become homeless or engage in illegal activities to raise funds to gamble. It is vital to seek help if you or someone you know has a gambling addiction.
In addition to medical treatments, there are a number of support groups available for those suffering from gambling problems. These can offer practical and emotional help, such as financial advice, debt management and support with finding employment. These services can also help you address the issues causing your gambling problem, and get back on track with your life.
The best thing to do if you or someone you know has recurrent gambling problems is to get help as soon as possible. This might involve calling a helpline, speaking to a healthcare professional or attending Gamblers Anonymous. You can also help by limiting access to credit cards and other financial resources, putting someone else in charge of finances, or closing online betting accounts. It’s also important to speak up if you have concerns about a loved one’s gambling habits and to encourage them to seek treatment. This can be difficult, but the sooner they get help, the better. It’s also helpful to learn more about gambling, such as how it works and factors that might provoke problematic behaviour. Our range of Safeguarding courses can help you understand these topics.