Whether you’re in a twinkly casino, betting on the pokies, or buying a lotto ticket, gambling is risking something of value that has an element of chance. It can be an exciting way to pass the time, but it can also lead to harm if you don’t manage your money responsibly. This article will help you understand the risks of gambling and how to avoid them.
Gambling is any game in which the participant stakes something of value, such as money or property, on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value, such as a prize. In the case of games such as blackjack, where strategy is involved, the odds are generally in the favor of the house; but in other cases, the odds may be tilted slightly in the player’s favor.
People gamble for many reasons, including to relieve boredom and stress, to win money, or for social status. Often, however, the excitement and pleasure generated by gambling is short-lived. The euphoria of winning can be replaced by feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. Eventually, these negative feelings can escalate to the point where they interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively at work, school, or home.
In addition to its effects on gamblers, gambling can have significant economic costs for society. It is estimated that one pathological gambler affects seven to 10 other people—family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors—with financial, social, and emotional problems. Those suffering from an addiction to gambling may also develop depression and suicidal thoughts.
Like drugs, gambling stimulates certain areas of the brain that release dopamine. These areas become more active with repeated exposure to the drug, and the same is true of gambling. It is believed that this dopamine release is a major factor in why people feel the urge to gamble.
Many people struggle with the urge to gamble, but it’s important to recognize that the problem is treatable. Various treatments are available, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications that control the effects of dopamine. Some people also benefit from support groups and other forms of group therapy. For those who are unable to curb their urges on their own, there are residential and inpatient treatment programs that provide around-the-clock support.
The Psychiatric Association recently moved pathological gambling into the category of impulse control disorders, alongside kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (fire-starting). This is a welcome development, but it’s still not enough to reduce the number of people affected by this debilitating illness. Until then, we need to continue to educate people about the dangers of gambling and promote responsible practices. Those who can’t stop gambling should seek treatment immediately. If you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem, don’t hesitate to contact our free, confidential service. Our trained counsellors are here to help, and they’re always available 24/7.