Gambling is an activity in which individuals risk something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. People gamble for a variety of reasons – to socialise, to escape from worries or stress and to get that adrenaline rush when things start going in their favour. However, for some people gambling can become a problem and it is important to recognise the signs and seek help and advice.
Betting companies promote their wares predominantly through advertising on TV, social media and via wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs. But gambling is different from other consumer products, for the punter has to buy into the myth that they have a chance of winning some money – despite the fact that, in reality, they don’t.
The first step in gambling is the decision to bet – this could be on a football team to win a match, or playing a scratchcard. Once the decision is made, it is then matched to a series of odds – which are determined by the betting company and which determine how much you will win or lose if you bet successfully. The odds are calculated by comparing the probability of winning with the cost of the bet, and it is these odds that are the basis upon which the gambling industry makes its profits.
Gambling is a highly addictive activity and it is difficult to stop or control one’s gambling behaviour. It is often exacerbated by mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which may be both triggers for and worsened by gambling. People with these disorders may feel tense or irritable, and even if they have stopped gambling they might still find themselves feeling this way when they enter a casino or pass by a TAB on their way to work.
There is no medication that can treat gambling disorders, but there are some drugs that can help with other mood disorders and can be used in combination with therapy to manage gambling. Support from family and friends is also very important, as is seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling.
To prevent a gambling problem, only gamble with disposable income and never use money that needs to be saved or used for bills or rent. Make a personal rule not to gamble on credit and close all online betting accounts. Keep a limited amount of cash on you and try to avoid gambling when you are tired, depressed or stressed. Balance gambling with other enjoyable activities and try to avoid chasing your losses. This will only increase the size of your losses. Finally, try to limit the time you spend gambling and do not gamble when you are on a holiday or relaxing with friends. If you are unable to stop gambling, seek help and advice immediately.