Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or possessions) on an event that has a chance of occurring and is not guaranteed. The outcome of the gamble can be either a positive or negative expectable value. The act of gambling excludes business transactions based on the law of contracts, such as the purchase of life insurance or health insurance.
There are many different reasons why people gamble. Some like the adrenaline rush of winning, others enjoy socialising and it can be a way to escape worries or stress. However, for some, gambling can become a serious problem and it is important to seek help when this happens.
The term ‘problem gambling’ was used in the 1980s to describe people who were unable to control their gambling. In the 1990s this was renamed pathological gambling, and it is now recognised as a mental health condition. It is a significant cause of harm, including family breakdown and loss of employment. It is also associated with a wide range of other psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety.
Problem gamblers can be hard to recognise, even for those closest to them. They may deny their gambling is a problem, try to hide their behaviour or lie about how much money they are spending. They often feel a need to win back any losses and will continue to gamble even when it is causing them further harm.
Symptoms of pathological gambling can include a lack of interest in other activities, changes in appetite or sleep patterns and difficulty concentrating. It can also lead to depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The underlying mood disorders can then make the compulsive gambling worse.
A number of different organisations offer support, assistance and counselling for people who have a gambling problem. These services can help with problem-solving, identifying triggers and relapse prevention. They can also provide education for people who are concerned about a loved one’s gambling habits.
It is also important to learn about how gambling affects the brain and what factors may provoke problematic gambling. For example, research has shown that some people have a biological predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity. This is partly because of differences in the structure and function of certain brain regions. Other factors that may influence gambling behaviour include genetics, environment, culture and peer pressure. It is also helpful to understand how gambling can damage your finances, relationships and health. This will help you to set boundaries and take steps to protect yourself. For example, it is a good idea to avoid gambling on credit cards and never to bet more than you can afford to lose. You should also learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends and practicing relaxation techniques. It is also a good idea to learn how to manage your emotions and to find other ways of entertaining yourself, such as reading books or attending concerts.