How to Make Gambling Safer


Gambling involves risking something of value (like money or property) in the hope of winning something else of value. It can be done in many different ways, from playing cards for small stakes with friends to placing a bet on a game of chance like a lottery or football match. There are both legal and illegal forms of gambling, with the former often regulated by governments to ensure fair play.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the adrenaline rush from winning money and socialising with friends. For some, however, it can become a problem. If you are finding that gambling is interfering with your daily life, leaving you stressed and anxious, or if you are borrowing money to gamble, it may be time to seek help. Problem gambling is also known as compulsive gambling or gambling addiction. It can affect your health and relationships, cause you to use illegal activities such as theft or fraud to fund your addiction, and leave you in a lot of debt.

Compulsive gambling can occur in people of any age, but it is more common in young and middle-aged adults. It is also more likely to affect men than women. Compulsive gambling is more common in people with a family history of the condition or with a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. People with a financial crisis are also at increased risk of gambling problems. If you are struggling with debt, you can speak to a specialist adviser at StepChange for free and confidential advice.

There are a number of things you can do to make gambling safer for yourself. Firstly, set yourself a limit and stick to it. Be aware that you are more likely to lose than win, so don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. It is also important to balance gambling with other activities and not let it take over your life. Finally, it is best to avoid gambling when you are feeling down or upset, as this makes it harder to make good decisions.

When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel excited and happy. This is because of the high-risk, high-reward nature of the activity. However, dopamine is released even when you lose, which can make it difficult to stop gambling when you are losing.

You can try cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you change the way you think and behave when you gamble. You will learn to recognise the thoughts and behaviours that lead to problem gambling, such as believing you are more likely to win than you really are or thinking certain rituals can bring luck. You will also practice strategies to help you stop chasing losses and to stay in control of your spending. This can be helpful in treating both gambling addiction and other impulse-control disorders such as kleptomania or pyromania. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has moved pathological gambling from a category of disorders such as kleptomania and trichotillomania, into a separate chapter on addictions.