Gambling is a risky activity that involves betting something of value, such as money or property, on an uncertain outcome. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the desire to win big money, socialising with friends, or as an escape from worries or stress. But for some, gambling can become harmful. If you’re struggling to control your gambling, you should seek help as soon as possible.
Problem gambling is usually considered to be a mental health issue. Symptoms can include feelings of worthlessness, anxiety or depression. In severe cases, it may lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harm. In addition to psychological symptoms, gambling problems can also cause financial hardship. This can be caused by excessive borrowing, unmanaged spending or relying on credit cards or loans to fund your gambling addiction.
Some forms of gambling can be considered “social” or casual, such as playing a board game with friends for small sums of money or participating in a sports betting pool with coworkers. But other types of gambling can be more serious, such as a professional gambler who makes a living from gambling or an individual who has lost significant amounts of money due to their gambling habits.
When people are addicted to gambling, they may find it difficult to recognise that they have a problem and will try to minimise or deny their behaviour. This can lead to other negative consequences, such as lying to family members or a therapist, hiding evidence of their gambling activity and jeopardising relationships and employment opportunities. Some individuals even turn to crime in order to finance their gambling habits, which can have serious legal and personal repercussions.
Several different types of therapy can be used to treat gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. These therapies focus on increasing a person’s awareness of their own unconscious processes and how they affect their gambling behavior, and can improve their motivation to change. Individuals with gambling disorder can also benefit from family and marriage, career and debt counseling.
In the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), gambling disorder is included in a category of behavioral addictions, which includes substance use disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The DSM-5 also notes that people with gambling disorders are at increased risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The first step to breaking the cycle of gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Then, you can take steps to regain control of your life. This could involve strengthening your support network, finding new hobbies, or joining a group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s also important to set limits for yourself, such as not gambling with money that you need to pay bills or rent. Instead, only use money that you have set aside for entertainment purposes. This will help you to manage your budget more effectively and stop you from overspending.