Problems With Gambling


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value, such as money or other goods, on the outcome of a random event. It may also be done with non-money items of value, such as marbles or pogs (small discs used in games such as Magic: The Gathering) and can involve betting against others.

Some people enjoy gambling and don’t experience any problems, but others become hooked. Problems with gambling can range from trivial to severe, and affect anyone from any background, including those of any race or religion, age or gender, who are rich or poor, urban or rural, male or female, educated or not, or with any kind of job.

The reasons why some people become addicted to gambling aren’t well understood, but it seems to be related to the way that the brain learns through rewards. Some people develop a tolerance to the dopamine generated by winning, so that they need to gamble more and more in order to experience that same feeling. They can’t walk away – it’s as if they need that dopamine hit to function properly.

Those who suffer from gambling addiction are driven by their desire to replicate early big wins, and they find it difficult to control their behaviour even when they recognise that they’re doing harm to themselves or those around them. Their impulsivity is exacerbated by boredom susceptibility, use of escape coping, a poor understanding of random events, and the fact that they’re trying to deal with some sort of stress or depression.

In addition, they tend to overestimate their chances of winning because they can recall immediate examples of previous successes – e.g. stories they have seen on the news of people winning big, or memories of themselves throwing dice in a certain way or wearing their lucky clothes. This is known as ‘partial reinforcement’, where people can be conditioned to expect rewards even if they don’t receive them all the time.

All of these factors can be combined to cause a person to be addicted to gambling, and the consequences of this can be devastating. Fortunately, help is available, and the services that provide support, assistance and counselling for those who have issues with gambling can be found here. They can offer practical and psychological support to both the individual and their families. They can also work with GPs to ensure that individuals who have a problem are receiving appropriate care and support. This can help minimise the effects of a problem and prevent it from getting out of hand. If you have any concerns about a friend or relative’s gambling, contact them straightaway. They will probably be unable to hide their actions, and will probably be reluctant to admit that they have a problem – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t get help. This can be in the form of treatment, support and advice, or simply by a discussion between the family members about their situation.