Causes of Gambling Problems

Gambling is an activity where you risk something of value on the outcome of a random event. It can include casino games like poker and slots, horse racing, sports betting and scratchcards. You can also gamble online. Gambling problems can cause stress, affect relationships and work performance, get you into trouble with the law or even lead to homelessness. They can cause huge debts and often destroy families.

It’s not uncommon for people to develop a gambling problem after experiencing some form of trauma or stress in their lives. However, the causes of gambling problems are complex and vary from person to person. Some people are genetically predisposed to risk-taking and impulsive behaviours. Others may have an underactive brain reward system that influences the way they process rewards and control impulses. The environment and culture in which you live can also influence the way you think about and approach gambling and can help or hinder your recovery from problematic gambling behaviours.

Many people who have a gambling problem do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of a gambling disorder, but they still experience problems because of their gambling behaviour. These people may not be aware that their problem is serious. Others may have a mild or moderate gambling disorder and are able to control their gambling behaviours.

People who have a gambling disorder sometimes struggle to make good decisions, and they may spend more than they can afford. They may also try to win back their losses by increasing their bets. This is called chasing, and it is not a sound strategy.

You can reduce your gambling by setting time limits, avoiding temptation and making sure that gambling doesn’t interfere with your life or take over other activities. You should also avoid using credit to gamble and never borrow money to gamble. Also, don’t gamble when you are depressed or upset. These emotions can influence your judgment and lead you to make bad decisions that can have long-lasting effects.

Having healthy family and social support can also help you manage your gambling. Talk to a friend or family member about your gambling problems and consider joining a support group for families affected by gambling, such as Gam-Anon. Counselling can be helpful too and can provide practical tools for managing finances, addressing underlying issues and preventing relapse.

You should also try to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and relaxing. Some problem gamblers start to gamble when they are bored or feel down, and they keep doing it hoping that they will “win back their money”. This can cause further problems and is not a healthy approach to coping with difficult emotions. Instead, try to do something productive, such as cleaning or washing the dishes, or find other healthy distractions. This can help you break the cycle of harmful gambling behaviours.