Gambling involves risking something of value on an event with an element of chance or uncertainty in order to win a prize. This can be done with money, goods, services, or even one’s own time and energy. A common way to gamble is by purchasing lottery tickets, cards, dice, slot machines, pokies (Australian casino games), races, sports events, or other types of wagers. Gambling can also take place using game pieces that have a value, such as marbles, Magic: The Gathering cards or Pogs, and is often conducted with other players.
A person with a gambling problem experiences repeated and uncontrollable urges to gamble, despite negative consequences. These may include deteriorating family relationships, financial ruin and emotional distress. They may lie, steal or engage in other illegal activities to fund their gambling addiction.
The most difficult step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that there is a problem. Many people struggle to recognise the warning signs, such as an inability to control spending or an increase in debt. They may also attempt to minimise their gambling or deny that it is causing them harm.
If you have a friend or family member who has a gambling problem, it’s important to help them find healthier ways to relieve boredom and stress. Try encouraging them to exercise, spend time with friends who don’t gamble, or try taking up a new hobby. You could also suggest they attend a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery model used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
While there are some people who can stop gambling on their own, most require help. Several different therapies are used to treat gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and group therapy. Treatment may also involve medication such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
In severe cases, inpatient or residential treatment is required. These programs provide round-the-clock supervision and offer a range of therapeutic treatments, including individual and group therapy, psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
There are many factors that can contribute to a gambling disorder, including family history, depression, substance use, and trauma. It is also more common in men than in women, and can begin as early as adolescence or later in adulthood. While it is impossible to predict who will develop a gambling disorder, there are some risk factors that can be identified, including a history of childhood trauma or social inequality, and the presence of other mental health conditions such as anxiety or schizophrenia. Some individuals with gambling disorder are at high risk of developing other disorders such as bipolar disorder or bulimia nervosa. This is because the symptoms of these disorders are similar to those of gambling disorder, such as impulsivity and low self-esteem. These disorders may also be exacerbated by gambling.