Gambling Disorder – What is it and How Can it Affect You?


Gambling is the wagering of something of value, including money or other goods and services, on an event with an uncertain outcome. A gambler must be willing to accept risk and have an expectation of winning a prize. Whether you play scratchcards, place bets with friends or wager on sports games, you’re gambling. It can be a fun and enjoyable pastime, or it can become a serious addiction.

Until recently, scientists didn’t understand how people could develop a gambling problem. It’s now recognised that certain people are predisposed to addiction by the way their brains process rewards, impulse control and risk. These factors can lead to dramatic alterations in chemical messages sent to the reward centres of the brain. This is why some people find it difficult to stop, even when the results of their behaviour are obvious to them and others.

Problem gambling affects people from all walks of life, no matter their social status, education or income level. It can occur in small towns or big cities and can affect men, women, young and old. Problem gambling can be triggered by events or circumstances, such as financial problems, relationship difficulties, unemployment, loss of a loved one or other traumatic life experiences. It can also be a coping mechanism used to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, such as boredom or stress.

People with a gambling disorder experience persistent difficulty controlling their behavior in spite of the negative consequences it causes them and others. They may lie, steal or borrow to fund their habit and may hide their gambling from family and friends. They are often secretive about their gambling and may use irrational beliefs such as the belief that others won’t understand, or that they can win back lost money by increasing their bets.

Those who have an addiction to gambling can find it difficult to quit, but there are things that can help. You can strengthen your support network, and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or taking up a new hobby. You can also seek support from peer groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you’re worried about your or someone else’s gambling, it’s important to get treatment right away. There are many options available to treat gambling disorder, from self-help books and online resources to counselling and behavioural therapy. In some cases, you may need to be hospitalised, especially if you have experienced a severe or recurrent gambling problem or have been diagnosed with another mental health condition. Talk to your GP about the best treatment for you. It’s also a good idea to speak to someone who has successfully overcome a gambling problem. They can provide practical advice and guidance, including how to quit and what to do if you have financial difficulties while trying to break your gambling habit. They can also help you find a treatment programme and support networks.

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