How Does Gambling Affect Your Life?

People gamble for many reasons – to earn money, have fun, socialise or escape from problems or stress. But for some, it becomes a problem. Having an uncontrollable urge to gamble can impact a person’s health, work and family life and lead to debt or even homelessness. It can also affect mental health, which may result in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. The good news is that there is help and support available.

People with a gambling disorder may not realize that they have a problem until their behaviour causes them serious harm or distress. They may spend more money than they can afford to lose, borrow or lie to friends and family to get funds, use drugs or alcohol, or even steal to finance their gambling habit. People with a gambling disorder are more likely to commit crimes, have poor health and relationships and perform poorly at work or school. Their family and friends are also affected. Some people with a gambling disorder may try to kill themselves before they seek help.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with awareness of risk and the hope of gaining more than was lost. It can range from buying a lottery ticket to the sophisticated casino gambling of wealthy individuals. Gambling can be legal or illegal, and may involve any type of game or contest. It can involve skill, chance or both, and it can involve a prize of either money or goods.

When someone gambles, it activates their brain’s reward system and gives them a dopamine boost. As they continue to gamble, the reward mechanism becomes overstimulated and requires more dopamine. This is why it is important to start gambling with a fixed amount of money that you are willing to lose. It will reduce the likelihood of losing all your money.

Whether an individual has an underactive or overactive brain reward system, genetic predispositions for thrill-seeking behaviours or impulsivity and environmental factors like the presence of peers who gamble can make them more prone to developing a gambling addiction. In addition, research suggests that some medications can interfere with an individual’s ability to control their impulses and assess risks.

Many people who develop a gambling problem do not recognize their problem as a serious issue because of the culture they live in, which may consider gambling an acceptable pastime. This can make it difficult for them to seek treatment. However, it is important to remember that it is never too late to get the help you need. If you are concerned about someone, contact a professional gambling helpline or seek out other sources of assistance such as self-help groups and physical activity.