Gambling is any activity in which someone risks something of value (such as money) for the chance to win a prize. It can be as simple as placing a bet on a sporting event or as complex as buying lottery tickets. It is a form of entertainment and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle. If gambling starts to take over other activities it can become a problem and lead to financial difficulties.
Gambling takes place in many different places and is available on the internet, in casinos, on television and at work. Some people have a gambling problem and can’t control their spending or stop the behaviour. This can lead to serious debt problems and even homelessness. People who have mental health problems may be more prone to harmful gambling as they are more likely to feel depressed or anxious. Gambling can also cause problems with family and friends.
Whether you’re playing slots, bingo, blackjack, poker, or a board game, it’s important to understand the rules and be in control of your money. You should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and never use money that is needed for things like rent or utilities. If you find yourself making the same bet over and over, or chasing losses, this can be a sign of a gambling problem.
It’s easy to think that gambling is all about winning big money, but this isn’t always the case. Many people gamble for other reasons, such as the social aspect, or to alleviate stress, or for a sense of excitement and euphoria that can come from the feeling of winning. In addition, gambling can help to change moods and can trigger feelings of euphoria linked to the brain’s reward system.
While there is no medication to treat gambling disorders, counselling can help to identify and understand the issues. It can also help with thinking about alternatives and finding ways to cope with the urge to gamble. Support from family and friends is also helpful. However, only the individual can decide to change their habits and stop the harmful gambling behavior.
There is a strong link between gambling and suicide. If you have thoughts of suicide or are in danger, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
Taking a break from gambling is an effective way to reduce your risk of harming yourself or others. Creating a plan to stop gambling and setting money, time and self-help limits can help you stay in control. You should also try to avoid gambling when you’re tired, upset or emotional as this can make it harder to keep control of your decisions. If you find yourself hiding evidence of your gambling or lying about how much you’re spending, seek advice from a debt adviser as soon as possible. This free, confidential service is offered by StepChange. You can speak to an adviser on 0800 138 1111.