Gambling is when people risk money or something of value to predict the outcome of a game that involves chance. This can include things like betting on a football match or buying scratchcards. The ‘odds’ that betting companies offer can determine how much you win if you predict the correct outcome.
Despite its popularity and accessibility, gambling can lead to significant harms such as mental health problems, financial losses, relationship breakdown, job loss and homelessness. It can also affect family members, friends and work colleagues.
There are a number of ways to help stop gambling and reduce the harms it causes. The main thing is to learn to avoid gambling and develop strategies to deal with the problem if you are struggling.
Set limits on how much money you are prepared to lose. You should not take out any more money than you can afford to lose, and it is best to keep your bank account separate from your gambling account.
Make sure you have a strong support network around you. Reach out to family and friends who you can trust, and make use of support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. These groups are based on 12 step programmes and can be a great way to get the help and support you need to stay in recovery.
Self-help is a powerful tool for overcoming gambling and there are a number of free self-help resources available. They can help you to cut down on gambling and learn new ways to manage your emotions.
Postpone gambling, distract yourself or practice relaxation exercises.
Often people turn to gambling when they are feeling lonely, bored or stressed out. The good news is that there are healthier ways to relieve these feelings, and you can do this without risking your money or reputation.
Consider taking up a hobby that involves your creativity and helps you to focus on things other than gambling. You could learn to play an instrument or take up a sport, for example.
Try to exercise regularly and eat well. Physical activity helps to maintain a healthy weight and can help to prevent or alleviate some of the effects of stress on the brain, such as a spike in cortisol levels.
If you feel tempted to gamble, take some time to reflect on why you have become a gambler and what you can do about it. You may find that you have a problem with impulse control or that you have an overactive mind. Changing these factors can help you to break the cycle of gambling and lead a more fulfilling life.
Do not let gambling interfere with other activities that are important to you, such as spending time with family or working. It can be hard to resist a tempting offer but, if you are able to delay the temptation, you might be able to prevent gambling from becoming an addiction.
Identify the symptoms of problem gambling (see the section on Addiction). These signs can be hard to spot but they do exist. Some of them are:
Restrict the amount of money you spend on gambling, and limit the length of time you spend on it. This can be a difficult thing to do but it is essential for your well-being.