Gambling is any activity where there’s an element of risk and the aim is to win money or something else of value. It can include playing card games, betting on football matches or buying scratchcards. Whether you’re gambling at a casino or online, it’s important to focus and set limits on how long you want to play. Casinos are free of clocks and windows so it can be easy to lose track of time and gamble for longer than intended. Try to keep a fixed amount of cash for gambling and leave when you’ve reached your limit. Also, make sure that gambling doesn’t interfere with your daily life and doesn’t replace other enjoyable activities.
When you gamble, your brain is naturally rewarded with dopamine when you experience an early win. This is a useful learning mechanism so that you can remember and replicate what works, but problem gambling hijacks this process, making it hard to control your behaviour. This can be caused by a number of factors, such as an expectation of an early big win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity and use of escape coping.
Having a gambling problem can be harmful for you and those close to you. It can damage your physical and mental health, hurt relationships and affect work and study performance. It can also lead to debt and even homelessness. Many organisations offer support, counselling and treatment for people with gambling problems, including inpatient or residential programmes.