Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, goods or services) on a random event with the intent of winning some other thing of value. Instances of skill play a role in some types of gambling, but in most cases the outcome of a gamble is determined by chance. There are many reasons why people gamble, including the excitement of a possible win and the desire to socialize with others. However, for some people, gambling becomes an addiction that can cause serious harm to their physical and mental health.
The term “pathological gambling” describes a person’s persistent and uncontrollable desire to gamble, even when the behavior is causing great distress and impairment. Symptoms of this disorder include: persistent urges to gamble; lying to family members or therapists in an attempt to conceal the extent of one’s gambling involvement; attempting to recoup losses through continued gambling (referred to as chasing); jeopardizing important relationships, jobs or educational opportunities; and relying on others for money in order to fund one’s gambling activities. Psychiatrists have developed several treatment approaches to help people overcome their problem with gambling. However, the American Psychiatric Association acknowledges that despite varying degrees of success, these treatments have not proven to be effective for all patients. This is likely due to the fact that various therapeutic approaches use different underlying assumptions about the etiology of pathological gambling.
Despite the risks, most people are able to control their gambling habits and refrain from addiction. However, for those who find it difficult to do so, there are many resources available, including treatment programs and support groups. Some of these programs are residential, offering round-the-clock support to help rehabilitate those with severe gambling disorders. There are also several self-help strategies that can be employed to combat the urge to gamble. These include limiting one’s budget, putting someone else in charge of financial affairs, closing online betting accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand.
In addition to these behavioral changes, it is helpful for those with a problem to address any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to their gambling problems. Often, individuals who struggle with this condition do so because they are trying to cope with stress, anxiety or other negative emotions in unhealthy ways. Learn to cope with unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. In addition, it is a good idea to bolster one’s support network and consider joining a recovery program such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. These resources can provide a strong foundation for long-term recovery from gambling addiction.