Gambling involves placing something of value (money, property or other valuables) on an event where the outcome depends entirely on chance. It was once a popular pastime and was often viewed as immoral, but in the past century, attitudes have changed and gambling has become more mainstream. The term “gambling disorder” has been defined by the Psychiatric Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to describe people who have an uncontrollable urge to gamble.
While most people who play games of chance like poker, roulette or bingo are not considered to be compulsive gamblers, there are some who do experience serious problems. It is estimated that more than 2 million adults would meet the criteria for a gambling disorder, and many others are affected to some extent.
Compulsive gambling can have serious consequences for people’s health and wellbeing, affect their relationships, work or studies, lead to serious debt or even homelessness. It is also thought to be a contributing factor in the suicide of some people. It is very important to get help for a gambling problem. In addition to individual therapy, there are many group therapies available that can be very helpful in breaking the cycle of compulsive gambling.
It is important to recognize that there are different reasons why people gamble, and not just the desire to win. It can be a way to alleviate stress, take their mind off other worries or socialize with friends. It can also trigger feelings of euphoria that are linked to the brain’s reward system. It is also possible that some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, which may make them more inclined to gamble.
Some of the most common causes of gambling problems include:
Family and relationship issues. People with problem gambling may not realize that they are hurting their loved ones, and this can lead to conflicts and resentment. Some families may even consider professional counseling to help deal with these issues.
Legal issues. Different countries have distinct laws and regulations that govern gambling activities, and it is important to understand these before playing. It is also crucial to be aware of the legal risks associated with online gambling.
Age and sex. People who start gambling during childhood or the teenage years are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. It is also easier for women to develop a gambling problem than men.
Changing the way you think about gambling is vital to overcome it. Talk to someone who won’t judge you, such as a friend or counsellor. Reduce financial risk factors, such as using credit cards and carrying large amounts of money with you. Find other recreational activities or hobbies to fill the void that gambling used to do. It’s also important to find a support network to help you cope when you do have a relapse. For example, joining a support group can be a great way to meet people with similar experiences and get practical advice.