Why Gambling Is Addictive
Gambling involves placing a bet on an event with some element of randomness or chance, like playing cards or a football match, or putting money on the outcome of a lottery or horse race. Whether you gamble for fun, to win money or to escape from stress, gambling can become dangerous and cause problems in the long term. This article explores what causes it to do so, and how you can get help if you have a problem.
A major part of why gambling is addictive is that it hijacks your brain’s reward mechanism, making you feel rewarded even when the odds are against you. This is because gambling has the same dopamine response as drug addiction, despite the fact it doesn’t involve ingesting chemicals. It is also known to trigger feelings of euphoria, which can be highly addictive.
Most of the time, when we gamble, we’re not betting money, but rather an imaginary amount, which we call our “bankroll.” However, if you bet too much, your real bankroll may go down and you could face debt problems. This can cause immense stress and isn’t healthy for your mental wellbeing. In fact, there is a link between gambling and thoughts of suicide. If you’re having these thoughts, contact 999 or visit A&E immediately.
Another part of the reason gambling is addictive is that it’s often used as a way to satisfy underlying psychological needs, such as a desire for power, status and belonging. Casinos, for example, offer a sense of community and are designed to make people feel special and valued. This can be especially hard for those who struggle with depression and anxiety, who are more likely to develop gambling problems.
There are many different forms of gambling, which can include card games like poker and blackjack, fruit machines, bingo and dice games, as well as betting on football accumulators, horse races and elections. There is also a lot of gambling that takes place within private settings, such as family games and friendly wagering with friends.
Some gambling is run by state governments, who use it to raise revenue for public programs. This is sometimes seen as morally questionable, given that the gambling industry is largely based on chance and there is little skill involved.
There are steps you can take to break the habit of gambling, including taking control of your finances, removing credit cards from your home, allowing someone else to be in charge of payments and closing online betting accounts. You can also strengthen your support network and seek professional help, such as therapy or a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous. You can also find ways to relieve unpleasant emotions and boredom in healthier, more effective ways, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. If you need help with your finances, speak to StepChange for free debt advice. The first step is admitting you have a problem, which can be extremely difficult, especially if you’ve lost money or strained relationships because of your gambling addiction.