Gambling involves placing a bet on something having an unknown outcome, determined at least partly by chance. It’s a major global industry with many different forms. It can involve real money, valuable goods or other materials that have a value but are not exchangeable for money (for example, marbles or collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering).
People gamble to enjoy the adrenaline rush of winning, socialise and escape from stress or worries. However, for some it becomes a problem that affects their health, finances and relationships. It can also lead to serious legal problems if a person becomes addicted and bets more than they can afford to lose.
While most adults and adolescents have some form of gambling experience, there are a number of factors that can cause a person to develop a gambling problem. These include:
The most common symptom of gambling disorder is the repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, reduce or stop gambling behaviour. This is known as compulsive gambling. It is also a sign of an underlying mental illness such as anxiety or depression.
There are a range of treatments available for gambling disorder including cognitive behavioural therapy, which looks at the beliefs around betting and how they might be affecting your life. These may include believing that certain rituals can bring good luck or that you can win back any losses if you bet more.
In addition, there are a number of self-help techniques to help with gambling addiction. One of the most important is to strengthen your support network. This could include reaching out to family and friends, joining a book club or sports team, taking an education class or volunteering. Another option is to join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model used for alcoholism recovery.
The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem. It’s a big step, especially if you have lost a lot of money or suffered damage to your reputation or relationships. However, it is possible to break the habit and reclaim your life. A therapist can help you develop new strategies, rebuild your confidence and repair your relationships. They can also teach you how to manage your money and finances in the future so you’re not vulnerable to relapse.