Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value for a chance to win money or other goods. This can be done at casinos, racetracks, online and even on TV. Many people gamble to pass time, but for some, it can become an addiction. Here you can find out more about gambling – what it is, how it works and what to do if you have concerns about your own or a loved one’s gambling habits.
A lot of research into gambling focuses on the harms, rather than the benefits. The reason is that it’s relatively easy to quantify the costs of gambling, whereas benefits are much more difficult to measure. This is because the ‘benefits’ of gambling are often intangible, and hard to put a monetary value on. However, there is evidence that gambling has positive impacts on society – such as increased tax revenues, and employment growth.
There are also negative impacts – such as financial distress, which can have significant effects on the whole family. People can also be harmed physically, with the risks being particularly high for children and the elderly. There are also psychological impacts, such as feelings of powerlessness and guilt. There is even the possibility of mental health problems, such as depression.
Some people gamble because it makes them feel happy – this is called hedonic gambling. They may also be using it as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings or to socialize. For example, they may gamble to distract themselves from stressful days at work or after arguments with their partners. However, there are healthier and more effective ways of reliving unpleasant emotions, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.
Other reasons for gambling include a desire to try and ‘get even’ after losing (chasing losses) or a need to win. Physiologically, the body releases a chemical called dopamine when you win, which can make you feel good and increase your motivation to keep gambling.
It is important to understand why a person gambles in order to help them change their behaviour. This will make it easier to spot the warning signs and take action if necessary.
There are many different treatments for problem gambling, including peer support groups and therapy. These can be beneficial, especially if combined with other lifestyle changes. For example, joining a gym, enrolling in a course or volunteering could all help you get back on track with your life and develop new hobbies. There are also debt charities, such as StepChange, that offer free debt advice. Alternatively, you can find out more about the support available by visiting the Gamblers Anonymous website. They have a 12-step recovery program, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, that can help you recover from gambling problems. They can also refer you to a therapist or other services that can help you overcome your gambling problems. They are free and confidential. You can also sign up to their mailing list to receive their newsletters.