Gambling is an activity where players risk something of value – such as money or personal belongings – on an event that is unpredictable and involves some element of chance. The aim is to win more than they have risked, either by winning a prize or avoiding losing more than they invested. This can include a wide range of activities, from playing card games such as poker and blackjack to betting on horse or football races, using instant scratch cards, lotteries and speculating on business or stock market movements.
There is a strong link between mental health problems and gambling issues. People who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions are more likely to gamble, and to have more serious gambling problems. They may also be more likely to use gambling as a way to escape their problems, or to gamble to relieve boredom or stress. It’s important to address these underlying issues and take steps to reduce your gambling, or quit completely.
The most difficult step in overcoming gambling is admitting that you have a problem. Many people who have a gambling problem deny or minimize their addiction, and may even lie to friends or family about how much time and money they spend gambling. It can be difficult to break the habit, and many people end up returning to gambling after a relapse. This is a common occurrence, but there are things you can do to help yourself stop gambling.
It’s important to be aware of how gambling is designed to keep you hooked, and understand that you have the power to change your behavior. Firstly, remember that gambling venues are designed to take your money, and are not there to give it back. They are in the business of keeping you there, and they know how to manipulate the odds in their favor.
Secondly, set yourself a money and time limit and stick to it. Never use money that you need to pay bills or rent, and make sure that gambling doesn’t interfere with your other entertainment or spending budgets. Try to avoid using credit cards, and never borrow to gamble. It’s also important to not allow gambling to become an excuse to socialise, and find other recreational or hobby activities. Finally, don’t chase your losses – this can lead to bigger and bigger losses.
Another important factor is the perception of control. Gambling is addictive because players overestimate the relationship between their actions and some uncontrollable outcome. This is similar to how video game designers optimize their reward schedules to encourage players to keep coming back.
It’s also important to avoid gambling when you’re feeling down or upset, as this can lead to more problems. Also, remember that gambling is not a good way to cope with grief or anger, and you should seek professional help if you’re struggling. If you’re struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free and confidential advice.