Gambling Addiction

July 1, 2024 by No Comments

Gambling is the putting up of something of value, with conscious risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, contest, or uncertain event. This includes betting on horses, games of chance such as blackjack and roulette, poker, sports events, fantasy leagues and scratch tickets. Some gambling activities are illegal in some countries and jurisdictions. While some people gamble responsibly, many become addicted to the activity and incur debts that impair their ability to support themselves and their families. Some are forced to turn to illegal activities such as theft and forgery in order to pay off their debts. Gambling can also lead to other health and psychological problems such as depression, substance abuse and gambling-related phobias.

Research has shown that the brains of those who are addicted to gambling exhibit activation in the areas of the brain associated with reward, risk and impulsivity. These changes in the brain may be a result of hereditary traits or environment or both. Some genetically predisposed individuals may have an underactive brain reward system, which can contribute to thrill-seeking behaviours and difficulty controlling impulsivity. Others are more likely to develop a gambling problem because of a lack of healthy family or peer role models.

Often, gamblers develop poor money management skills and are more likely to use credit cards or loans to fund their gambling. They often carry large amounts of unsecured debt and are at high risk for bankruptcy. According to one study (Ison 1995a), 20 percent of bankruptcy cases were attributed to gambling. Additionally, it is estimated that one problem gambler affects seven other people-spouses, children, extended family members and friends.

In addition, people who are addicted to gambling tend to have poor impulse control and may spend more time gambling than working or engaging in other recreational activities. This can have a negative impact on the person’s family, work, social life and physical well-being. The addiction to gambling can be a difficult habit to break and is often accompanied by strong feelings of guilt, anxiety, shame and depression. Those who struggle with these symptoms should seek professional help.

The good news is that there are several ways to reduce or stop gambling. Those who are concerned about their gambling habits should speak with a therapist, doctor or counselor and consider attending a self-help program for gambling addiction such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Also, it is helpful to strengthen a supportive network and engage in other enjoyable activities. For example, people can try taking up a hobby, joining a book club or sports team, attending educational classes and volunteering for charity. Lastly, it is important to remember that gambling should be used for recreation and not as a means of making money. If you have trouble limiting your gambling, try setting a budget for how much you can afford to lose and sticking to it. It may also be a good idea to leave your ATM card at home before going to the casino and only play with cash.