Gambling is an activity in which a person risks something of value (typically money) in the hope of winning a prize. It can be done in a variety of ways, including betting on sporting events, buying scratchcards, playing the pokies or using a lottery game. Some people gamble as a form of entertainment, while others find it to be a serious addiction that causes financial and emotional problems.
Gambling can have a negative impact on mental and physical health, family and work life, and can result in serious debt. In some cases it can lead to homelessness and suicide. It is important to seek help if you have a gambling problem, and a number of therapies are available.
Symptoms of pathological gambling (PG) include: a persistent urge to gamble despite adverse consequences; significant losses that are difficult to control; a preoccupation with gambling, including reliving past experiences and thinking about how to get more money to gamble; lying to family members, therapists or employers to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; and/or a history of illegal acts such as forgery, fraud or theft to finance gambling. PG can begin in adolescence or young adulthood and may affect women at a higher rate than men.
The risk of a relapse is high in those with gambling disorder, so it’s important to seek treatment if you have concerns. A number of treatments are available, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. A combination of therapies may be most effective for some people.
There are also online and face-to-face support groups for those with a gambling disorder, such as Gamlers Anonymous. These groups follow a 12-step recovery program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s often helpful to have a sponsor, someone who has successfully overcome gambling disorder and can offer support and guidance.
In addition to therapy, it’s also important to address underlying mood disorders that can trigger or make gambling problems worse. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse can all increase a person’s risk of gambling addiction. They can also exacerbate the effects of gambling on one’s physical and emotional health, relationships and performance at work or study.
Trying to recover from a gambling addiction can be challenging, but it is possible to break the cycle and learn healthy coping skills. A key to recovery is finding other sources of enjoyment, such as spending time with friends and family, participating in a hobby or education course, or joining a community sports team. Developing other social networks can prevent the lure of casinos and online gambling websites from taking over your life. It’s also helpful to establish a budget for gambling and stick to it. You should only be gambling with money you can afford to lose and not use it for essentials such as your rent or phone bill. Finally, remember to never chase your losses – this usually leads to bigger losses in the long run. If you do have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.