Gambling is an activity in which someone stakes something of value (usually money) on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. This includes betting on sporting events, games of chance and participating in lotteries. Gambling can have serious financial, social and psychological consequences. Those who are addicted to gambling may experience depression, anxiety, digestive problems and even suicidal thoughts. People with gambling addictions often deny their problem and downplay how much time they spend on gambling or hide the amount of money they are spending. Some also become reliant on other people to fund their gambling or replace what they have lost.

Gambling can be very addictive because it triggers a chemical reaction in the brain. The brain releases a hormone called dopamine when you win, which gives you a temporary high. But this does not last long, and you soon need to gamble more to get the same high. Over time, this can change your brain chemistry and make you feel less pleasure from healthy activities like eating good food or spending quality time with family and friends.

People who are at risk of gambling addiction should learn to recognise the warning signs and seek help early. Some of the signs include:

Having trouble sleeping or feeling depressed.

Feeling irritable or anxious, especially when thinking about gambling.

Finding new ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. If you often gamble to self-soothe feelings of boredom, loneliness or stress, try learning healthier and more effective methods such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, and relaxing activities.

Managing your bankroll.

Gambling is often done at casinos, but it can also happen in other places like restaurants and sporting venues. Make sure you only gamble with money that is not needed to pay bills or rent, and set a budget for yourself before you start gambling. Try to stick to it, but don’t be discouraged if you have a lapse – just try again next time!

Talking to a trusted friend or professional counsellor.

Gambling addiction can be difficult to admit to others, but talking to a friend or professional counsellor is one of the best things you can do for yourself. A counsellor will be able to help you identify and address the underlying issues that are contributing to your gambling problem, and provide support and advice for dealing with it.

Researching gambling addiction.