Gambling Addiction

Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (money, property, or other assets) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance, such as a roll of the dice or a spin of the roulette wheel. While gambling is not a bad thing in moderation, it can become addictive and cause serious harm to a person’s health and wellbeing. The practice also causes a great deal of social and psychological disruption, affecting not only the gambler but their family, friends and workplaces.

Although most people who engage in gambling do not develop problem behaviour, a small proportion of them have pathological gambling disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the past, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, but in the 1980s, while updating its diagnostic manual, the American Psychiatric Association moved it into the Addictions chapter.

Some of the most common symptoms of pathological gambling include: (1) a preoccupation with gambling; (2) lying to family members or therapists to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; (3) attempting to recover from a loss by gambling more money, or by “chasing” losses; (4) engaging in illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, or theft to finance gambling; (5) jeopardizing a relationship, employment, or educational opportunity to engage in gambling; and (6) relying on others to provide funds to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.

While it is not possible to eradicate problematic gambling, there are many things that can be done to help. In particular, it is important to seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may trigger or be made worse by gambling. This can include depression, stress, or substance use.

In addition to individual therapy, group support is also helpful in the battle against gambling problems. The Gambling Anonymous program is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous and can provide invaluable guidance to those who wish to break free from gambling addiction. The program involves finding a sponsor, who is usually a former gambler who has successfully overcome his or her addiction to gambling.

Another way to help fight gambling addiction is to make sure you only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, and not with the money you need for bills or to live on. It is also a good idea to set time and money limits for yourself, and stick to them. Finally, try to avoid mixing gambling with alcohol or other drugs. These can have a negative effect on your judgement and may lead to more gambling-related problems. Moreover, try to find other activities for yourself that will keep you mentally engaged, such as reading books or playing sports. Also, make sure to surround yourself with supportive family and friends.