Gambling involves risking something of value, such as money or goods, on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the desire to win money or other prizes, or to escape from unpleasant feelings, such as boredom, anxiety or stress. For some people, gambling can become an addictive behavior that negatively affects their personal and family life.
Scientists once thought that only a small percentage of people who gamble became addicted to the activity, but now researchers agree that gambling addiction is real and can have serious consequences for some individuals. Experts believe that genetics, temperament and environment play a role in determining a person’s likelihood of developing a gambling disorder. Those who have a family history of the condition may be predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsiveness. Psychiatrists also know that certain drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, can trigger gambling disorders.
Many people who have gambling problems are unable to stop gambling, even though it is causing them serious harm. The urge to gamble is difficult to overcome, and it can be especially hard to control when there are financial difficulties involved. Experts recommend getting help and support from a counselor or therapist, as well as avoiding isolation.
A counselor can help you develop better coping skills and work through any emotional issues that are contributing to your gambling problems. Several types of psychotherapy can be helpful, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you to recognize and challenge unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Psychodynamic therapy can also be useful, as it helps you understand unconscious processes that contribute to your gambling behavior.
Gambling is a complex issue, and it’s important to talk about it with your loved ones. Be prepared to listen and provide support, but don’t enable the person by saying things like “just this once” or “it’s a harmless hobby.”
If you have trouble controlling your gambling habits, you can seek treatment through support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and online counseling services. You can also contact your state’s mental health department or a local alcohol and drug abuse hotline to learn about local resources for treatment.
Another way to help a friend or family member with a gambling problem is to limit access to money. Get rid of credit cards, put someone else in charge of the household finances, close online betting accounts and keep only a little cash on hand. This will prevent your loved one from being able to use their gambling habit as an excuse to spend more money. You can also try to help them find healthier ways of relieving boredom or stress, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.