When Gambling Becomes a Problem

Gambling is wagering something of value on an event involving chance. It can be a game of chance, such as dice or scratchcards, betting on sports events or even buying lottery tickets. If you win, you get the prize, but if you lose, you lose your money. It is possible to lose more than you can afford, and it is important to recognise when gambling becomes a problem and seek help.

It can be hard to tell if your gambling is becoming a problem, but there are some warning signs. You may start to gamble secretly, lying to friends and family or hiding evidence of your gambling activity. Your gambling may begin to interfere with your home life, work and other activities you enjoy. You might feel compelled to gamble in order to pay for things you need, or increase your bets in an attempt to recoup losses. You might also become superstitious about the outcome of your gambling, and believe that certain actions will increase or decrease your chances of winning.

A common symptom is gambling more than you can afford to, which can cause financial problems and lead to bankruptcy. It can also damage your relationships, as gambling often involves socialising with other people. If you are worried about your gambling, talk to someone you trust who won’t judge you – this could be a friend or a professional counsellor. Having an alternative recreational activity or hobby can also be a good way to help you manage your gambling.

You might be tempted to use credit cards or loans to fund your gambling, but this is not wise. Instead, make a personal rule not to gamble on credit and try to limit your gambling to what you can afford. If you are unsure how much you can afford, consider setting a time limit for when you will stop gambling and leave once you have reached this amount. It is a good idea to also allocate a portion of your disposable income to gambling, so that you can see exactly how much you have spent and know when it’s time to stop.

Gambling is a complex phenomenon and more research is needed to understand what makes some people vulnerable to developing gambling problems. As with other addictive behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol, government health-research agencies need to take a more active role in tackling this issue. For example, they should investigate whether gambling is associated with an increased occurrence of psychotic episodes in people who already have these conditions and explore how factors such as social and economic disadvantage, sensation-seeking, and mental health are linked to the development of gambling disorders. Ultimately, this will help to develop strategies for prevention and treatment. However, for now, the best thing we can do is support and care for those who are struggling with gambling harm. They deserve our help, not pity or scorn. They need our help to stop this harm from continuing.