Gambling involves risking money or something of value (such as a job) on an event that is largely unpredictable. It is often regarded as an addictive activity because it triggers an emotional response in people who are vulnerable to addiction and is associated with serious mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It can also lead to financial difficulties and family breakdown.
Generally, there are four reasons why people gamble: for social reasons, for coping reasons, to win money and for entertainment. Understanding these motivations can help you understand why a loved one’s gambling becomes problematic.
The first step towards overcoming problem gambling is admitting that there is a problem. This is often a difficult thing to do, especially if someone has lost a lot of money and damaged relationships along the way. Nevertheless, it is vital to overcome denial and seek help. There are many organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling to people affected by gambling. These include gambling helplines, peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and programmes like Gam-Anon.
There are also specialist residential treatment and rehabilitation facilities that offer long-term care to those who need it. This type of programme provides a safe environment where an individual can learn to manage their gambling and build a healthy life without it.
Research suggests that there are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing compulsive gambling behaviour. These include age, gender, a family history of gambling problems and sex. Compulsive gambling usually starts during adolescence or young adulthood and can continue to develop over time. It is more common in men than women and tends to occur in those who have a close relative with a gambling problem.
Another reason why gambling can become addictive is that it gives the illusion of control. As humans we all want to feel in control and when it comes to something as unpredictable as gambling, this can be frustrating. As a result, some people try to manipulate the situation by adopting rituals like throwing dice in a certain way or sitting in a particular place to get lucky.
People who are addicted to gambling also have an increased sensitivity to losses compared to gains of equal value. This means that they are more emotionally reactive to losing PS10 than finding PS10. This is why people keep gambling to ‘win back’ previous losses or alleviate their feelings of disappointment and frustration.
When dealing with a loved one who is suffering from a gambling addiction, it’s important to set boundaries and manage money effectively. You can do this by limiting the amount of money that they have access to and only giving them money for essentials. You can also encourage them to explore effective treatments for gambling problems, such as family therapy or credit and debt counselling. There is also a range of online and self-help programmes that can be useful in supporting them in their recovery.