Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on horses or sports events, or playing the pokies, gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value (usually money) for the chance to win something else of value. The activities are often marketed as fun and exciting, but they can be harmful. Gambling usually takes place in commercial establishments such as casinos or racetracks, but it can also be done online and at home.
A big part of the problem with gambling is that it can send huge surges of dopamine through your brain, which can be very addictive. These surges can distract you from doing the things you need to do to survive, such as eating and working. And they can cause you to focus more on gambling than on healthier and safer activities.
Over time, this can change your brain chemistry and make it harder to stop gambling. You might experience withdrawal symptoms, such as feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression; lie to family members, therapists, or employers about your gambling activity; or spend more than you can afford to lose in order to try to get back the money you’ve lost (chasing losses).
The first step in stopping gambling is recognising that there is a problem. Many people find that it’s hard to admit that they have a gambling problem, especially if it’s cost them a lot of money or strained relationships. But it’s important to realise that there are a lot of people who have been in your shoes and have managed to overcome their addictions.