How to Avoid Problem Gambling

Gambling involves placing something of value, usually money, on an event of chance that has the potential for a prize win. It can also involve the use of collectable items (such as marbles or trading cards) or a virtual representation of these things (such as electronic gambling games). Although it is typically conducted in a setting like a casino, it can take place anywhere, including at home, in restaurants and even at sporting events.

For many people, gambling is a form of entertainment, but for some individuals it can become problematic. Problem gambling is often referred to as “gambling disorder” and it can impact your life, family and friends. It is a recognised mental health condition.

There are a number of warning signs that can indicate if you have a gambling problem. For example, if you are constantly thinking about gambling or hiding your spending and time spent on it, this may be a sign that you have a problem. You may also be spending more money than you can afford to lose.

If you are worried about a friend or loved one’s gambling, there is help available. There are many organisations that offer support, advice and counselling to those affected by gambling.

The way we think about problem gambling has changed significantly in recent years. While historically we have viewed individuals who experienced adverse consequences from gambling as having a gambling problem, today we consider them to have psychological problems. This change is similar to the shift in how we view alcoholics.

Those who have a gambling problem are susceptible to various factors that increase their risk of developing this type of behaviour, such as an early big win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, the use of gambling as escape coping and stressful life experiences. These factors can be reinforced by the euphoria that occurs after winning and the relief from negative feelings that gambling can provide.

It is important to understand how gambling affects the brain so that you can avoid becoming a problem gambler. Problematic gambling causes changes to the reward pathway in the brain, which can make you feel less pleasure when you gamble. This means that you will be tempted to gamble more in order to feel the same level of pleasure, and this can lead to devastating effects on your life.

It is important to start each gambling session with a fixed amount of money that you are willing to lose. This will help you keep your spending under control and prevent you from ‘chasing your losses’ – the idea that you will be able to recoup the money that you have lost by betting more on the same game. It is also a good idea to set alarms on your phone or watch to remind you when it is time to stop. This can be especially helpful when you are in a gambling establishment where there are no clocks visible.