Gambling is a risky activity that involves betting money or items of value on an uncertain outcome. People gamble for many reasons – it might be for the excitement of winning, to socialise or as a way to relieve boredom or stress. However, for some people, gambling can become a problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, there are ways to get help.
The first step is recognising when gambling has become a problem. If you or someone else is betting more than they can afford to lose, lying about how much they’re gambling or hiding evidence of their gambling activities, they may have a problem. Gambling can also cause financial problems and there’s a strong link between it and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Despite its widespread popularity, gambling is a dangerous activity that can lead to serious consequences for both the individual and society. Many governments around the world have laws against it, and some are attempting to ban it altogether. However, this doesn’t stop it from being carried out – illegal gambling establishments exist near state borders, on cruise ships that sail outside territorial waters and online.
One of the main reasons why gambling is so addictive is that it causes massive surges of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural reward hormone that helps to motivate us to do things like eat, sleep and work. However, when people have too much dopamine, they lose the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviours. They need to gamble more and more to experience the same pleasure, and this can be a sign of a gambling addiction.
The second step is addressing the problem and seeking treatment. This could include therapy, which can teach you how to manage your urges and change your unhealthy thoughts. It could also involve medication, depending on the underlying condition contributing to the problem, such as substance misuse or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Some types of therapy are more effective than others, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for gambling addiction, which focuses on changing unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns, and teaching you coping skills.
The best way to help a loved one who is struggling with gambling addiction is to be patient and offer support without judgement. Encourage them to seek help, such as calling a helpline, talking to a healthcare provider or mental health professional, or joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. You might also suggest finding healthier ways to cope with boredom or stressful feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby. Be aware that it might take time for your loved one to accept they have a problem and seek help. But keep in mind that the sooner they do, the better. The longer they wait, the harder it will be for them to overcome their addiction and reclaim their life.