Even though gambling has been around for ages, only recently have we witnessed the rise in campaigns promoting safe and responsible gambling. Almost every player has at least once tried playing at a casino, as gambling has been a popular pastime for centuries. And while there is nothing wrong with placing a bet or two every now and then, being a responsible gambler is crucial. Compulsive gambling can highly affect the life of the gambler and people around him or her as well.
How Gambling Affects Your Social Life
There are countries such as India, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, where gambling is a social activity and a form of entertainment for everyone of legal age, but in many societies gambling is still considered to be a risky business and an activity that goes along with alcoholism, organized crime, and underworld in general. Nowadays, when online casinos are available at all times, at our fingertips, it is obvious how they are respectable businesses, and this type of hobby is becoming more and more recognized as an acceptable way to spend time.
Average casino player will experience a high level of social interaction, as long as he or she plays games that involve others. For instance, it is not a rare occasion that an entire table is cheering for a player who is on a streak. Furthermore, some games like bingo, heavily rely on communities, both online and offline, and even if everyone is playing from the comfort of their own home, chat groups are bursting with messages and encouragement. Such people are often considered to be social gamblers, punters who play games not to win, but simply to have a good time and meet with people.
Of course, all this is possible under the presumption the player has a healthy relationship with gambling activity. However, in case the player develops a gambling problem, effects on social life become much more negative. Gambling addicts develop an unhealthy obsession with the activity and tend to neglect social relationships, family, and friends. They also hide or borrow money, thus putting their immediate family or partners under financial strain. Sometimes, these situations escalate into bankruptcy, debt, job loss, and other negative socioeconomic consequences.
Physical Effects of Gambling
And while an alcoholic or a drug addict is quite easy to spot, not even problem gamblers have any distinctive characteristics that might help you tell them apart. There are no swollen red noses, bad breath, hands hidden by long sleeves in the summer, or dilated pupils. Still, that doesn’t mean gambling doesn’t do anything to your body, as the physical effects are often secondary and can serve as a trigger for certain conditions.
Some researchers have noticed how mobile gambling can cause eyesight difficulties, especially when played on smartphones and during the night without appropriate filters. Constant strain, squinting, neon colors, and blinding effects can also trigger early myopia. Also, gambling activates cause more hormones than just adrenaline. Players who play a lot and frequently, usually have higher cortisol levels. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, kept our ancestors awake and aware of predators.
However, in this day and age, high cortisol levels can cause serious inflammation and trigger conditions such as high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, osteoporosis, and muscle weakness, which can have serious consequences, such as a heart attack or a stroke. Still, for a reasonable gambler, playing a game every now and then probably won’t have any negative physical side effects. The player might experience a faster heart rate, some sweating, or unrest, but those will usually stop once the punter stops playing. The biggest physical injury can be a sore elbow from moving the mouse or some back pain from long sitting periods.
Psychological Effects Gambling Can Have
Before we tackle this issue, it is important to know why people gamble, and only then can we understand the psychological consequences this activity might have. Social gamblers will be in good mood, have fun and experience some good times with their peers, and will be able to go home as if nothing had happened, especially if they have a solid relationship network outside the gambling domain. In fact, gambling can improve their decision-making process, and help them find focus when dealing with pressure. Players who enjoy skill-based games, such as poker, also have to learn about human behavior so they can “read the opponent”. Psychology is a strong element in games of skill, so successful players also know how to control their emotions, and act cold-headed even when they have a bad hand.
On the other hand, players who see gambling as a form of escapism, an easy way out, or a means to solve all their financial difficulties, might have to face serious repercussions. Problem gamblers are more prone to depression and tend to isolate themselves from others. Furthermore, compulsive gambling, just like all other addictions, leads to always wanting more and another adrenaline rush, so it is not uncommon for players to misuse different substances for that extra kick of excitement. Even if this habit is not out of control, players can experience mood swings, short tempers, and feelings of shame, all depending on how they handle stressful and uncertain situations in other aspects of life.
As with most other activities, remaining focused and responsible is the key to gambling with no negative biopsychosocial consequences which might affect the player and his or her well-being in the long term. Even though this might seem like an impossible task, it is essential to keep in mind how there are many professional casino players, not to mention aficionados, that have been playing for decades without facing extreme negative side effects. If a person develops a gambling problem, it is necessary for him or her to have access to medical support, NGOs, and other organizations that can help solve the problem appropriately, without judgment and imposing guilt on any level. Furthermore, they should have an honest and truthful approach with loved ones.