Gambling As an Unhealthy Habit


Gambling is when you risk something of value, such as money or possessions, in a game that involves chance. It can be done through betting on sports events or horse races, playing slots or fruit machines, lotteries or casino games. Gambling is an activity that can lead to serious problems, such as addiction, if it is not controlled. Problem gambling can also cause family and financial issues.

Occasional gambling can be fun, but if you or someone you care about is relying on it to make money, distract themselves from problems or relieve boredom, then it could be a sign of an unhealthy habit. If you or a loved one is struggling with an unhealthy gambling pattern, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. The first step is to talk to a trusted friend or family member, or call the GamCare helpline.

Research shows that a combination of factors may contribute to problematic gambling. These include the underlying cause of the gambling behaviour, and social or environmental factors that increase the chances of developing an addictive behaviour. In addition, many people who struggle with problem gambling have poor emotional regulation. This means that they can’t control their emotions and often feel impulsive.

It is also common for those who struggle with gambling to have a lack of healthy coping skills. This can make it difficult for them to deal with stress, arguments or problems in their lives. Some of these coping skills include using alcohol or drugs, eating too much or not enough, and engaging in risk-taking activities such as gambling.

The most effective treatment for problem gambling is a combination of cognitive-behaviour therapy and other therapeutic approaches. CBT teaches people how to manage their thoughts and behaviours, such as confronting irrational beliefs such as thinking that a string of losses or near misses (for example, two out of three cherries on a slot machine) will signal an imminent win. It also teaches people how to replace unhelpful coping mechanisms with healthier ones, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.

A key to managing gambling responsibly is setting limits in advance. A good rule is to only gamble with money you can afford to lose. It is also a good idea to set a budget and stick to it, putting it alongside other regular expenses such as food, bills and entertainment. It is also important to avoid chasing your losses, as this can often lead to even bigger losses.