Problem Gambling


Gambling is risking money or property on an uncertain outcome of a game, contest or other event, with awareness of the risk and in the hope of gain. It can range from buying lottery tickets to playing casino games or betting on football accumulators and horse races. It can be illegal or legal. Whether it is socially acceptable or not, gambling is associated with corruption, crime and poverty. It can impoverish families and lead to blackmail. It can also cause mental and physical health problems.

Problem gambling affects people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. It is not only a problem in big cities and towns, but it can occur anywhere in the world. It can be a cause of family breakdown and divorce, bankruptcy and suicide. It can also be a major cause of depression and anxiety. It is often linked with substance abuse, and some people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol also have a problem with gambling.

The behaviour is addictive because it hijacks the brain’s reward pathways. When someone wins a small amount, the brain releases dopamine. This reinforces the behaviour, and so they keep doing it. However, the more they lose, the harder it is to stop. It can become a vicious circle where they cannot stop, even though they know it is causing them harm.

In addition, many people gamble for a variety of reasons. It may be that they enjoy thinking about what they would do with the money if they won, or that it makes them feel good to think of themselves as a winner. Others enjoy the adrenaline rush and the ‘high’ that comes with winning. These reasons may not excuse a loved one’s addiction, but they can help us understand what drives them to continue gambling and how we can support them.

Research suggests that pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder, and is similar to pyromania and kleptomania. However, it is important to remember that a diagnosis of pathological gambling does not excuse the person from the responsibility to seek treatment. It may be that a person with a gambling disorder is vulnerable and does not recognise the extent of their problem.

There are a number of organisations that provide support, assistance and counselling for people who have a problem with gambling. They can offer advice, education and support to the person themselves and their friends and family. They can also help the person to control their gambling or even stop it completely.

It is vital to realise that gambling can be very addictive and that it can cause harm. But it is equally important to be aware of the help that is available. If you know someone who is struggling, please talk to them and encourage them to seek help. You can also show them the effective treatments that are available, and explain how they work. It might make them more open to discussing their situation and finding a solution.

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