Whether it’s betting on football matches, buying lottery tickets or using the pokies, gambling is an activity where you put money at risk in order to win more. It can be a fun and exciting way to spend time, but for some people it becomes out of control and has negative impacts on their mental health. People gamble for many reasons – the thrill of winning, socialising, or escaping from worries and stress. However, it is important to recognise when it is getting out of hand, and seek help if it does.
There are a number of ways to help tackle gambling problems, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. CBT is a talking therapy that helps change unhelpful thinking and behaviour, such as believing you are more likely to win than you actually are, or that certain rituals can bring you luck. These types of beliefs are often present in those who have a gambling problem, and can be a key driver of their addiction.
If you are concerned about your gambling habits, talk to your GP, who can refer you to specialist services or self-help tips. Many people have been in the position of gambling becoming out of control and have successfully broken the habit, even if they’ve lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships. The first step is recognising that you have a problem, and that takes courage.
It is also a good idea to only gamble with disposable income, not money that you need to pay bills or rent. Never use credit cards or take out loans to gamble, and make sure you set money and time limits for yourself before starting. It’s also a good idea to stop as soon as you reach your limit, and don’t chase your losses – thinking that you are due a win will only lead to more spending and more damage to your bank balance.
Another important tip is to stay hydrated. Alcohol and other caffeinated drinks can dehydrate you and impair your judgement, so it’s best to avoid them when gambling. Try to drink water instead, and if you are in a casino it’s a good idea to only get free cocktails when you have stopped gambling.
It is also helpful to find healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying new hobbies. All of these things can have positive mental health effects, and they are usually cheaper than gambling.