Gambling Problems and How to Overcome Them

Gambling involves risking something of value (typically money) on an event with a significant element of chance. It can include games like lotteries, cards, bingo, slots, instant scratch tickets, races, animal tracks, sporting events and dice. The activity can be considered a form of entertainment, but it also has serious financial, physical, emotional and cultural impacts on the gambler and their family and friends.

Some people may have an underlying mood disorder such as depression, stress or substance abuse which can trigger gambling problems. These issues can also make it more difficult to recognise a problem and seek help when needed.

The psychological and sociological aspects of gambling have been explored by researchers and practitioners, particularly in relation to psychiatric disorders. A range of theories have been developed to explain why some people engage in risky gambling activities. These theories focus on individual differences in brain structure and function, reward seeking behaviours and impulsivity. There is also a growing understanding of how the environment and culture around us can influence our values and perceptions about gambling.

A key factor in the development of gambling problems is the illusion of control. This occurs when the gambler overestimates the relationship between their action and some uncontrollable outcome. The illusion of control is reinforced by a variety of cognitive biases which distort the perceived odds of events and influence the gambler’s choice of bets.

Another factor in the development of gambling problems is the perception of a positive feedback loop. This is when the gambler feels they are gaining ground in a game or are improving their skills, even if this is not the case. It is often accompanied by an unrealistically positive self-image, and by the illusion that other players are more advanced than the gambler.

In addition to these factors, research has indicated that the development of gambling problems is influenced by genetic predisposition and environmental influences such as childhood trauma and family history. In particular, a number of studies have linked specific genes to impulsivity and low dopamine levels, which can impact on a person’s ability to make good decisions and control their impulses.

The biggest step to overcoming a gambling addiction is recognising that there is a problem and asking for help. Many people are able to break the habit and rebuild their lives, but it takes tremendous strength and courage. If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction it can be helpful to talk through your situation with an online counsellor. They’re free, confidential and available 24/7.