You’re sitting in a twinkly casino, you’ve filled up at the buffet and you’re ready to roll the dice. But wait, buckaroo, it’s not going to be like in the movies. In real life, gambling rarely ends in a big win and it’s a lot more complicated than winning the lottery. This article will discuss why people gamble, how it affects the brain and what to do if you or someone you know has a problem with gambling.
Gambling involves risking something of value on an event with a element of randomness and chance, such as scratchcards, two-up or betting with friends, where strategy is discounted. It is not necessarily illegal to gamble and many people gamble for fun or for the social experience, but gambling can become an addiction when it becomes a compulsive behaviour. There are several signs that suggest a person may have a problem with gambling. These include:
A person who has a gambling problem needs professional help. A psychiatrist can assess a person’s problem and recommend treatment options, including self-help. It is also important to seek support from family and friends, as well as community organisations such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Some people are more prone to developing a gambling problem than others. It is thought that some people have a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity, which may affect how they process reward information, control their impulses and weigh risks. Research has also shown that the reward circuits in the brain are different in those who develop a gambling problem, and this could be because of differences in the way they respond to rewards or how they regulate their emotions.
Research on gambling is difficult because of the difficulty in getting accurate and reliable data. Longitudinal studies, which follow a group of people over time, are the best way to study gambling behaviour. This type of research can help to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation, as well as provide evidence about cause and effect.
Various theories have been developed about why people gamble. Some people gamble for coping reasons, such as to forget their problems or as a way to unwind, while others do it for the rush of excitement or to improve their mood. It is also possible that a gambling addiction can be triggered by certain environmental circumstances, such as having low income or experiencing depression or anxiety.
To avoid gambling becoming an issue, it is a good idea to set financial goals and keep a close eye on your bank balance. It is also helpful to find other ways of relaxing, socialising and coping with boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or finding new hobbies. If you do feel the urge to gamble, talk about it with a trusted friend or family member who won’t judge you and try to reduce the financial risk factors involved in gambling by reducing credit card use, closing online betting accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash on you.