Gambling is a risky activity that involves placing something of value on the outcome of an event where chance plays a large role. Whether it’s a lottery ticket, a slot machine, or sports betting, gambling is a form of addiction that can have negative psychological and financial effects. If you have a gambling problem, there are steps you can take to recover and regain control of your life.
The first step is to recognise the signs of a gambling disorder. Common symptoms include:
Problematic gambling can have a significant impact on all aspects of your life. It can affect relationships, work, and education. It may also lead to debt or bankruptcy. In addition, gambling can make you feel depressed or anxious. If these problems persist, it’s important to seek treatment.
A diagnosis of a gambling disorder is usually made by a psychiatrist or psychologist. It is classified as an impulse control disorder and is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). Treatment options include:
Therapy: Whether it’s cognitive behavioural therapy or dialectical behavioural therapy, therapy can help you change the way you think about and feel about gambling. It can also teach you strategies to manage your triggers.
Support: A strong support network can help you beat a gambling disorder. Reach out to friends and family, and try new activities to occupy your time, such as reading, exercising, or cooking. You could also join a support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous.
Research: Studies that are longitudinal – with data collected over an extended period of time – are more useful for understanding the causes of a gambling problem. This type of study can identify influencing factors and provide more precise estimates of causality than short-term studies. However, longitudinal studies have several limitations, including the difficulty of maintaining a consistent research team over a long period, attrition of participants, and confounding by aging or period effects.
If you have a gambling addiction, you need to stop gambling right away to avoid any further harm. This means avoiding high-risk situations, such as using credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of money with you, and socialising at gambling venues. It’s also important to stop drinking or taking drugs before gambling, as they can influence your judgement. You should also never chase your losses – the more you try to win back your losses, the bigger your losses will be. If you are worried about gambling addiction, it’s a good idea to speak to a debt adviser at StepChange. They can offer free, confidential advice and help you find a solution that suits your needs.