Gambling involves betting something of value on a random event with the intention of winning. It can be done by playing casino games such as poker and blackjack, betting on sports events like football accumulators and horse races or by buying lottery tickets and scratchcards. Problem gambling can harm relationships, cause family breakdown, impair performance at work or study and leave people in debt. In some cases it can even lead to suicide. Over half of the UK population takes part in some form of gambling activity, but for many this can be problematic. There are also factors that may provoke problematic gambling, including genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity and social influences such as the values of a community and how people talk about gambling with friends and family.
In addition, a gambler’s brain releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that makes them excited about winning. This can be a powerful incentive to keep gambling, especially if they are feeling low. But there are steps that can be taken to help people reduce their risk of developing a gambling disorder.
First, it’s important to understand that there is no single form of gambling that is inherently more addictive than any other. The risk of problem gambling can occur in all forms of gambling, whether it’s lottery, casino games (e.g. roulette and slots), sports betting, or even online casinos.
Social gambling is another risk factor, where people bet small amounts of money with friends or colleagues. This can be in the form of a card game or board game for small stakes, a friendly football betting pool or buying lottery tickets together. It’s often considered a ‘low-risk’ type of gambling and can make it difficult to recognize a problem.
Gambling can create jobs and generate tax revenue, which benefits the local economy. This can also benefit charitable causes, such as supporting educational and health research. It can also improve mental agility and decision-making by stimulating the brain’s cognitive abilities.
But gambling can have hidden costs, too, such as the strain on personal and family relationships. Compulsive gambling can be particularly harmful to relationships because it encourages people to prioritise their gambling habits over those of their family and friends, leading to anger, betrayal and resentment.
A good way to tackle a problem is with professional counselling. Counselling can provide a space for discussion of the issues that are causing concern and can also offer practical advice on how to deal with them. It can also support the process of overcoming a gambling disorder and help repair damaged relationships and finances. In addition to individual counselling, couples and family therapy can also be helpful in dealing with problems caused by gambling. This can be particularly effective in helping couples resolve their differences around gambling. It can also be beneficial for individuals to receive credit, career and marriage counseling to address their financial and relationship issues. This can help them develop healthy, alternative ways of spending their time.