Gambling is any activity where money or anything else of value is staked on the outcome of a game involving chance. This includes card games like poker, bridge or spades; fruit machines or two-up; bingo; and betting on horse races, football accumulators and other sporting events. It can also include speculating on business, insurance or stock market trends. People with gambling problems can develop a variety of emotional and physical symptoms, including depression, anxiety and digestive problems. These symptoms can have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives.
The term “gambling addiction” refers to a persistent, compulsive urge to gamble, despite negative social, family and financial consequences. It’s considered an impulse control disorder and is included in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). People with gambling disorders often feel they must keep their problem secret, lying to friends and family about how much they spend on gambling or even to themselves. In addition, they may be unable to stop gambling even when they’re losing money.
Problem gambling can affect people of all ages, backgrounds, races and income levels. However, certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing a gambling problem, including being exposed to gambling at a young age and having a family history of gambling. Genetics, environment and medical history can also be important in predicting the likelihood of gambling problems.
There are many ways to get help for a gambling problem, including therapy, self-help, family and peer support, and medication. Therapists can help a person identify and examine their motives for gambling and teach them skills to manage impulses and emotions. Self-help strategies can include setting time limits for gambling and avoiding activities that trigger a gambling urge. Family and peer support can be a good source of encouragement and guidance, and many gambling recovery groups are based on the 12-step model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Many people start gambling because they want to feel good about themselves, or they think that it will improve their life. But it’s important to remember that gambling is a risky activity, and it doesn’t necessarily bring happiness or wealth. Instead, it can lead to debt, bankruptcy, homelessness, depression and other health problems. There are healthier and more effective ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up new hobbies, and practicing relaxation techniques. It’s also important to seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may contribute to gambling problems. These conditions include depression, stress or substance abuse, which can both trigger and make worse a gambling problem. Seek help for any mood disorders that you or someone you know is struggling with. This will not only help you quit gambling, but it’ll also make the process of getting back to normal a lot easier.