The Dangers of Compulsive Gambling
Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which someone puts up something of value, usually money, on the outcome of a random event. The hope is that they will gain something of greater value, such as a prize or other material goods. While gambling is often thought to be a recreational activity, compulsive gambling can destroy a person’s life. It can cause a person to spend more than they can afford, hide their behavior, and even resort to theft or fraud to support their habit. Compulsive gamblers may try to escape their problem by moving, hiding from friends and family, or using drugs or alcohol to hide their symptoms.
Gamblers choose what they want to wager on – it could be betting on a football team to win a match, or buying a scratchcard. This is matched to ‘odds’, which are set by the betting company and determine how much they can expect to get if they win. This is the first part of gambling, and where many people make a mistake.
The second part is the actual act of gambling, which is where most people do their biggest damage. It’s not just the flashing lights and sounds of a casino that are designed to capture attention; so-called “gambling apps” on smartphones can be equally immersive. These apps are designed to trigger the reward centers of the brain in a similar way as drugs, so that the user feels an addictive urge to play.
Repeated exposure to gambling and uncertainty causes changes in the brain that mimic those of drug addiction, according to animal studies. This makes people less able to control their behavior, and can lead to a vicious cycle where they keep gambling for the same reason that they started. For example, a person might begin gambling as a way to cope with depression or anxiety and end up becoming addicted to the thrill of winning and losing.
There are several factors that increase a person’s likelihood of developing a gambling problem, including age, sex and family history. Younger people are more likely to develop a problem, and compulsive gambling is more common in men than in women. Having a friend or family member who suffers from a gambling problem can also increase a person’s risk of addiction.
The best way to avoid a gambling problem is to only gamble with a certain amount of money and stop when you have reached your limit. It is important to remember that the odds are against you and you will lose some of your bets, so you should treat any winnings as a bonus. Setting a budget before you start gambling will help you stick to your limit and stop when you have finished. If you are gambling on a game like poker, it is a good idea to buy some small chips so that you have an equal amount to spend. It is easy to lose track of time in a casino, especially as they are free from clocks, so setting an alarm can be a good idea.