Pathological Gambling

Gambling is an activity in which people wager something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. It is a common form of entertainment and can be found in casinos, sports events, horse races and even online. Although gambling is a risky activity, many people enjoy the excitement and euphoria it can bring. However, for some it can become a problem that can damage their health and relationships, interfere with work or study, get them into debt and possibly even lead to homelessness. This is known as pathological gambling or problem gambling.

It is important to remember that all forms of gambling are inherently risky and a person will always lose some money. The key to managing your risk is to only gamble with money you can afford to lose, and never borrow or spend money intended for other needs (e.g. rent and food). If you decide to gamble, it is also a good idea to allocate a specific amount of money for this purpose and keep track of how much you’re spending. If you’re a serious gambler, it can be helpful to have a dedicated budgeting app or spreadsheet to help with this.

People who struggle with gambling often find themselves in a cycle of losses and wins that can be very difficult to break out of. This is because their brain’s reward system is activated when they win, and this can cause them to continue to play in the hopes of re-triggering that feeling of euphoria. They may try to increase the size of their wins by betting more money, or they might engage in other behaviours that attempt to give them a sense of control over their gambling, such as throwing the dice in a certain way or wearing a lucky item of clothing.

The factors that contribute to gambling addiction are complex and vary from one person to the next. Some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, while others have an underactive brain reward system that makes it harder for them to process rewards and weigh risks. Furthermore, there are cultural factors at play where a community may view gambling as a normal pastime, making it more difficult to recognise a problem and seek treatment.

Some people are also more likely to develop a gambling problem because of stressful life experiences or depression, which can alter their ability to make sound decisions. These changes in their thinking can make it hard for them to stop gambling, and they may begin to lie to family members, friends or employers about how much they’re spending on their bets. They can also start to hide their gambling and try to make it appear like they’re not addicted by hiding credit cards or using cash only at the casino. These are signs that it’s time to seek help. Fortunately, there are many organisations that offer support, advice and counselling for people who have issues with gambling.