Gambling is the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an event whose outcome is determined by chance or accident rather than by the exercise of skill. This activity is illegal in most countries and is a common source of addictions and other mental health problems. It is important for families and friends of gamblers to understand the dangers of gambling so they can help if needed.
The main reason for the development of a gambling addiction is that the reward centers of the brain are stimulated by gambling. These are the same reward centers that are stimulated when we eat a chocolate bar, spend time with a loved one or take part in a physical activity. The chemicals that are released during these activities have a positive effect on our mood and well-being, so we naturally seek them out. The problem with gambling is that it can become more rewarding than these healthy behaviors, and people who are predisposed to addictive behavior are more likely to go overboard. This is why compulsive gambling was recently included in the DSM-5 as a mental health disorder, along with drug and alcohol addictions.
Gambling involves two components: the choice of a bet and the act of betting. The first component is a decision to place a bet, which can be as simple as picking a football team to win a match or placing a bet on a scratchcard. Once the decision is made, it is matched with the odds (assigned by the bookmakers) which determine how much a punter could win if they were to succeed. The odds are a representation of the probability that an individual will lose or win, but they aren’t necessarily the same for each bet.
The act of betting is often marketed to teenagers through the media, social networks or wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs. This marketing is designed to convince the punter that they can beat the bookmakers, and that their chances of doing so will increase if they continue to bet. This is a deceptive bargain that is very similar to Coca-Cola’s advertising strategy, which convinces consumers that they’ll prefer their product over Pepsi even when they already know how it tastes.
There are many ways to break the gambling cycle, including avoiding social media sites and removing credit cards from your wallet. It’s also a good idea to seek help from a gambling recovery program, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous and offers peer support. Lastly, it’s important to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, like exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. The biggest step is admitting that you have a problem, which can be difficult, especially if it has cost you a lot of money or strained your relationships. However, countless others have successfully overcome their addictions and rebuilt their lives. They may not have won millions, but they have succeeded in regaining control of their finances and regaining their happiness.