Gambling involves putting something of value, such as money, on the outcome of an uncertain event. It can be a game of chance or skill and can be done legally or illegally. Many people gamble for fun and excitement but for some it can become a problem. If you’re worried you might be struggling with gambling addiction, speak to a specialist counsellor or try self-help tips. There’s also a link between gambling and mental health, so it’s important to address any depression or anxiety as well.
Over the years, understanding of gambling problems has changed dramatically. At one time, those who experienced negative consequences from gambling were viewed as gamblers with a bad habit; today, they are understood to have psychological problems such as poor judgment, cognitive distortions, and impaired impulse control. This change in perspective is reflected or stimulated by changes in the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling, which have occurred in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The prevalence of gambling disorders is influenced by many factors. Those who are at higher risk include those with lower incomes, especially young people and men; those with co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety; and those who have family history of gambling addiction. In addition, the tendency to impulsively seek sensations and novelty may play a role.
Some studies use cross-sectional designs to investigate the relationship between gambling participation and its effects, while others use longitudinal data to track the progression of a person’s gambling involvement. The latter approach provides greater insight because it allows for the comparison of individual responses over time, which can help to identify factors that moderate or exacerbate an individual’s gambler.
It’s worth remembering that gambling is not a necessary part of life, and you should only ever gamble with money that you can afford to lose. If you need to get into debt to fund your gambling, this can lead to a cycle of relapse and financial hardship.
There is no single treatment for gambling disorders, but a combination of therapies including psychotherapy and group therapy is recommended. Counselling can help you learn how to manage your urges and think more clearly about your finances. Medications can be used to treat co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety, but they aren’t widely available for treating gambling disorder itself.
Gambling is an extremely addictive activity, and the problem can impact on all aspects of a person’s life. It can cause financial, emotional and social damage. To break the cycle of harmful gambling, seek help as soon as you recognise that you have a problem, and try to reduce the amount of time you spend in gambling venues. It’s also useful to find other recreational activities and hobbies, which will make you feel more satisfied and less stressed. Don’t try to win back money you’ve lost, as the more you chase your losses, the more likely you are to end up losing even more.