The thrill of gambling can be tempting. It is easy to imagine the twinkly casinos in Las Vegas or the glitzy world of horse racing and it’s not hard to dream about winning millions from a quick spin of the roulette wheel or a bet on your favourite sports team. But gambling can be a serious addiction that damages physical and mental health, affects relationships, interferes with work and study and can even lead to legal problems or homelessness. It can also cause significant financial losses and can make it impossible to maintain other hobbies and interests.
Many people have trouble telling whether they are becoming addicted to gambling. A common reaction is to deny that there is a problem, hide the activity from family and friends or try to find ways to minimise it. Some may even become depressed and suicidal. The most vulnerable groups are young people and men, with up to 5% of adolescents and young adults developing a gambling disorder, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition).
There are many ways to help control your gambling, including seeking professional support from a psychologist or therapist, or attending self-help group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. It’s also important to learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or practicing relaxation techniques. You should never try to recoup your losses, which is called “chasing your losses.” It’s important to allocate a certain amount of disposable income for entertainment and not use money that you need to pay bills or rent. It’s also helpful to keep a budget and stick to it.