Gambling is an activity where people stake money or other valuables in the hope of winning something. It can include casino games, lotteries, sports betting and online gambling.
It can be addictive and harmful to your health. It can interfere with your relationships, performance at work or study, lead to debt and even homelessness. It can also be a risk factor for suicide and harm your family or friends.
Identify and address underlying mood disorders
Problem gambling can be triggered by depression, stress or substance use disorders. If you’re struggling with these problems, seek help and talk to your doctor about gambling.
Avoid gambling when you are depressed or upset, or if you are suffering from any other mental health disorder. This will help you manage your emotions and prevent your gambling from becoming a problem.
Control your cash
To make sure you don’t gamble more than you can afford, set a time limit and stick to it. It’s also important to stop gambling when you lose money, as the more you try to win back, the bigger your losses will be.
Don’t use credit to gamble, and don’t borrow money from family or friends if you need it for gambling. If you’re having trouble controlling your cash, see the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ for more information.
Strengthen your support network and find a mentor
Many gambling addictions start because of social isolation or loneliness. A good way to strengthen your support network is to reach out to friends who don’t gamble, or to join a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous. You can also take up new hobbies or activities, exercise and practice relaxation techniques.
Be realistic about your motivations for gambling
When you gamble, your brain produces the neurochemicals endorphins and adrenaline. These chemicals are naturally produced by the body to give you a feeling of well-being, but they’re also responsible for stimulating your desire to gamble.
Having these feelings of euphoria triggers the release of other chemicals that stimulate the reward system of your brain. This leads to a high and cravings to return to the game, causing an addiction (Labarre).
Consider why you are gambling
It’s a common mistake to assume that gamblers want to win money. But people often gamble for a variety of reasons, including to relieve stress or anxiety, to socialize with friends, and to get a rush from playing.
If you have a family history of gambling, you are at greater risk of developing a gambling addiction. It’s also more likely for men to develop a gambling problem than women.
Learn to self-soothe unpleasant feelings in healthier ways
Some people turn to gambling as a means of soothing their moods and relieved boredom. These feelings may be temporary, but it’s still a bad idea to continue using it as a method of coping with unpleasant emotions.
Change the way you think about your gambling, instead of viewing it as a way to earn money. Changing your attitude about gambling will help you understand why you’re having problems and what it takes to break the habit.