Gambling is a type of recreational activity whereby individuals wager money or something of value on an event with a varying outcome. The odds – which are the chance of winning or losing – are based on chance and can be determined by a number of factors such as a person’s skill, their luck, the behaviour of other gamblers, and their own personal characteristics.
While most people can stop gambling once they’ve walked away from the table or the slot machine, some cannot – and their behaviour may start to impact their finances, work, education, personal relationships and even their mental health. Ultimately, if your gambling is causing you harm, you might need to seek professional help.
People who suffer from gambling addiction often find it difficult to recognise that they have a problem. For example, they may lie to friends and family or hide evidence of their betting habits. They may also rely on other people to fund their gambling activities or try to recoup the money they’ve lost.
This is because gambling stimulates the reward centres in the brain. These rewards are similar to the ones we get from eating delicious food or spending time with loved ones. This means that when someone feels pleasure, it can become a vicious cycle where they feel the urge to continue gambling to experience more of these good feelings.
Betting firms promote their wares to attract punters through TV adverts, social media and wall-to-wall sponsorship of football teams. Unlike, for example, Coca-Cola which can advertise its product in the knowledge that everyone already knows how it tastes, betting companies need to convince people that they have a fair shot at winning some money.
Gambling firms use a range of psychological techniques to keep punters engaged, including the ‘near miss’ effect. This is where a person believes that they can control the outcome of a game or event by placing bets in certain ways, such as throwing dice in a specific way or wearing a lucky item of clothing. This is because humans want to feel in control of their actions, and a feeling that they can influence the outcome by manipulating their environment is appealing.
For some, however, this is not enough and they may begin to rely on irrational beliefs in order to continue gambling. This is known as a denial of the reality of their situation and can be treated through cognitive-behaviour therapy which helps people challenge irrational thoughts, habits and triggers. In addition, there are peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous that can help people overcome their gambling disorder. Other specialised treatments include family therapy and marriage, career and credit counselling. These can address issues that have developed because of a gambling habit and lay the foundations for repairing damaged relationships and rebuilding finances.