Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can be a form of entertainment, but it can also result in negative consequences, such as debt and poor health. Gambling is often used to relieve boredom, self-soothe unpleasant emotions, or distract from painful thoughts and experiences. However, there are more effective and healthier ways to cope with these feelings. For example, exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying out new hobbies can all help.
Humans are programmed to seek out activities that release dopamine – and if you’ve ever experienced the feeling of ‘winning’ at gambling, it’s likely that this activated your reward centre and produced the feel-good chemical. This feeling is addictive, and once you’ve tasted it, the urge to continue gambling becomes strong. The brain’s reward centre doesn’t care about the ramifications or aftermath – it only cares about prolonging this sensation as long as possible.
If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s important to recognise that the problem is much more than a simple habit. It’s a complex issue that affects a person’s finances, relationships, health and well-being, and lifestyle. The good news is that there are plenty of services and support available to help you overcome your gambling problems.
The first step to overcoming a gambling problem is stopping, and this should be done before you try to understand the WHYs behind your behaviour. This is because continued gambling will interfere with any progress you might be making in other areas of your life.
Many people struggle with compulsive gambling because of a lack of control in their lives. They have difficulty regulating their emotions and thinking about the long-term impact of their actions, especially if they’re in a state of high stress or anxiety. This can make it hard to focus on other aspects of their life, including work, family and friendships.
For this reason, bringing up the topic of gambling may be difficult – particularly if your loved one doesn’t acknowledge that they have a problem. However, it’s important to discuss the issues in a calm and supportive way. It’s not helpful to criticise them or belittle their behaviour, as this will only cause further distress and prevent them from opening up.
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s gambling habits, it’s essential to speak out about it before the situation gets any worse. You can start by explaining that you’re disappointed or upset by their behaviour, but that you want to work together to get back on track. Be sure to emphasise that you’re not blaming them, and remind them that gambling help is available. If you’re unable to have a productive discussion, it might be best to ask them to call you another day when they’re feeling more able to talk openly. You can also refer them to a gambling help service for more information. However, it’s crucial to remember that you can only take care of someone else if you’re taking care of yourself too.