Whether you’re buying a lotto ticket, scratch-off, playing video poker or betting on sports events, gambling can be fun and exciting. However, it can also lead to harm if you don’t manage it responsibly.
Compulsive gambling can affect your physical and mental health, relationships and performance at work or school. It can also cause serious debt and even homelessness.
What is gambling?
Gambling is the act of risking something valuable, usually money, on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. This activity can take many forms and is commonly associated with slot machines, bingo, lottery tickets and betting on sports events or office pools. However, it can also include games such as poker or blackjack that are played with virtual chips.
Although gambling is a common activity, some people can become addicted to it. Compulsive gambling, or gambling disorder, can damage a person’s health and relationships, lead to bankruptcy and even result in suicide. Those with gambling problems can often experience co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
In some cases, gambling involves materials that have a value but are not money, such as marbles or collectible game pieces in games like Pogs or Magic: The Gathering. This type of gambling is called simulated gambling and is increasingly popular on social media sites.
What are the risks of gambling?
Gambling can have positive effects on society and personal health, if it’s done responsibly. However, it can also cause harms to those who gamble, their families and friends and the wider community. These risks include gambling addiction, which is classed as an impulse control disorder in the psychiatric manual (DSM-5) and a risk factor for other mental illnesses.
Some people may develop an addiction to gambling because of other underlying issues they’re dealing with, such as depression or anxiety. These can be addressed with psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps people to change the way they think and act.
Another risk of gambling is the possibility that it will increase a person’s stress levels and lead to insomnia. This can then affect their physical health, such as weight gain or loss, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure and lowered immunity. It can also affect their work performance, which can impact their personal life and relationships.
How can I stop gambling?
For many, gambling begins as a harmless pastime, but it can quickly turn into a compulsive habit. While it may be difficult to admit that you have a problem, there are a number of ways that you can overcome your addiction and rebuild your life.
One of the most effective strategies for overcoming gambling is to replace it with new activities. You can try taking up a hobby, practicing mindfulness or even volunteering in your community. These activities will help occupy your mind and distract you from harmful thinking patterns that trigger gambling.
You can also try to avoid your triggers by avoiding the places where you gamble and limiting your exposure to gambling-related stimuli. It may also be helpful to write down your feelings and experiences in a gambling diary. This will help you recognize relapse signs when they occur and can give you a better understanding of how to overcome your gambling addiction for good.