How to Recognise Problem Gambling

Gambling is a popular pastime that involves risking money or anything of value on events with a chance of winning a prize. Some people enjoy gambling as a way to socialise or escape from stress, but for some it can become an addiction.

Problem gambling is a mental health issue that negatively affects an individual’s life and relationships. It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to gamble that causes serious financial, personal and social consequences. A person’s behaviour can lead to debt, bankruptcy, and even criminal activity in extreme cases. Gambling can also damage a person’s reputation, lead to depression and suicide.

The negative effects of gambling can be felt at all levels of society. The social costs include those on individuals, their families, and the economy. Economic impacts are a result of lost work, lowered productivity, and increased unemployment. In addition, the introduction of gambling can have a significant impact on small businesses such as retail and recreational/amusement services.

It is possible to recover from gambling disorder. There are many options available for treatment, including group and individual counselling. There are also self-help programs, such as Gamblers Anonymous – a 12-step program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs can help you find a sponsor, a former gambler who has successfully overcome the habit. They can also provide you with invaluable guidance and support.

A good starting point for identifying problem gambling is to recognise the symptoms. These can include:

Gambling can trigger an addictive reaction in the brain, just like drugs. This is because it stimulates the reward centre, causing your body to release dopamine. Dopamine is a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and excited. It’s a natural human response to positive experiences such as spending time with friends, eating a meal or winning a lottery ticket.

When gambling becomes problematic, it can take over your life and destroy relationships. You may start lying to your family, hiding gambling activities or borrowing money from others to fund it. You might think that you are ‘due for a win’ and continue gambling, even after losing large sums of money. This is called the gambler’s fallacy – thinking you will get back what you have lost, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Problem gambling is linked to other mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. It can also increase feelings of guilt and shame, as well as reduce confidence and self-esteem. It can also lead to relationship problems and cause you to avoid social activities, which can have a negative impact on your overall wellbeing. In addition, it can contribute to feelings of stress and fatigue. These feelings can be difficult to overcome, but there are ways to cope, such as seeking treatment or joining a support group. This article was updated on 18th April 2022 to include new information.