Gambling involves placing a bet on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, and the gambler hopes to gain something of value. It may be as simple as putting money on a particular team to win a football game or as complex as buying a lottery ticket or scratch card. Gambling can be fun and exciting, but it’s not a good way to make money, and it can lead to addiction.
The biological basis for gambling problems may include a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour and an underactive brain reward system, or it could be linked to mood disorders like depression, anxiety or stress. People with these underlying conditions can find it harder to resist the lure of gambling and to control their gambling habits, and they may lie or hide their activities from loved ones.
Social factors like peer pressure, the culture around a person and family members’ attitudes towards gambling can also influence whether or not someone develops an addictive gambling disorder. People with a history of emotional trauma or other mental health issues may be more vulnerable to developing problem gambling. Many people start gambling to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or relieve boredom and loneliness, but there are healthier ways to do this, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. There are no drugs to treat gambling disorder, but therapy such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help people overcome their urges to gamble. In addition, family and peer support, and attending a Gamblers Anonymous meeting can help people manage their gambling behaviors.