Gambling Problems


Gambling involves risking something of value – money, goods or services – on an uncertain outcome based on chance. It can be a fun and enjoyable activity, but for some people it becomes an addictive behavior that causes harm to their health and relationships. It can also damage their work or study performance, leave them in financial hardship and even lead to suicide.

Problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of age, race or religion. It can also impact family, friends and colleagues. The good news is that help is available. Many organisations offer support, assistance and counselling for those who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s gambling behaviour.

Mental health professionals use a number of criteria to help them identify when someone has a problem. For example, they look at whether an individual needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the same level of excitement. They also consider if they lie to conceal their involvement in gambling, or become restless and irritable when trying to cut back or stop their behaviour.

There is also evidence that the brain’s reward centres respond to gambling in a similar way to drugs and alcohol. It is thought that this is because when you win a prize, the brain releases dopamine, a natural chemical that makes you feel excited. Similarly, near misses on slot machines or other games of chance, such as dice, can trigger the same response and encourage gambling behaviour.