Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, scratch-offs or playing video poker, gambling involves betting something of value in the hope of winning. It’s also possible to gamble online, by placing bets on sporting events or on the outcome of a game. Gambling is not without risk and a person who loses money could find themselves in debt, or even homeless. Those who have mental health problems are more likely to become addicted to gambling and may turn to it as a way of dealing with their feelings. The good news is, there are ways to help someone with a gambling problem and many people recover on their own or with the support of family and friends.
Occasional gambling is fine but if you or someone you know is gambling to try and win more money, distract themselves from their day-to-day problems, or spend more than they can afford, it may be an indicator that they have a problem. If you think this is the case, it’s important to seek advice and take action. You can talk to a friend or relative, speak to a gambling helpline like GamCare, or join a self-help group for families such as Gam-Anon.
The reason for gambling problems is not fully understood but there are a number of contributing factors. They can include traumatic events, low self-esteem, and financial pressures. It’s often a combination of these factors that leads to harmful gambling. Those with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can be more at risk of developing an addiction to gambling. They can also be more prone to taking risks such as trying to recoup losses by gambling more or hiding their activity.
Problem gambling can affect all aspects of a person’s life including work, relationships and their physical health. It is sometimes referred to as compulsive gambling or gambling disorder and can lead to debt, homelessness, and even suicide.
There are a variety of treatments for gambling disorders, including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and medication. These types of therapies can help people to challenge their irrational beliefs around betting, for example that they are more likely to win than they actually are or that certain rituals will bring them luck.
It’s important to remember that all forms of gambling are inherently risky and there’s always a chance that you could lose. It’s therefore essential that you only gamble with money you can afford to lose and that you never use money that you need for other expenses, such as your rent or utilities. It’s also worth bearing in mind that most gambling products are designed to keep you gambling, so make sure to set time and money limits before you start.
In the past, the psychiatric community has viewed pathological gambling as a form of compulsion rather than an addiction. But, in a landmark decision, the APA moved pathological gambling into the addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders this year. This move is being hailed as a major advance in the way psychiatrists understand and treat gambling disorders.