Gambling Disorders – How to Recognize and Overcome a Gambling Problem


Gambling can be fun and exciting for some people, but for others it can destroy their health, strain relationships, prevent them from working or studying and leave them with serious debt. Problem gamblers can even commit suicide. Fortunately, help is available. Many people overcome gambling addiction and reclaim their lives. However, for some it takes a great deal of strength and courage to admit that they have a problem. This is especially true if they have lost a lot of money and strained or broken family relationships as a result of their addiction.

There are a number of reasons why people become addicted to gambling, from genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity to cultural values that may influence beliefs about what is acceptable behaviour. In addition, some people may be influenced by other mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, which can trigger or make worse gambling problems.

While some people may be able to stop gambling on their own, for others it is a major problem that requires professional help. Counselling can be helpful in understanding the underlying issues that cause gambling disorder and in developing a plan to overcome it. Medications are also sometimes prescribed to treat co-occurring disorders and help control impulses. But the most important step is for individuals to recognize that they have a gambling problem and seek treatment.

The decision to gamble involves choosing a bet and a stake. The bet is matched to the odds, which determine how much money you can win or lose. The higher the risk, the greater the potential reward, but it is not always possible to know whether you will win or lose. The second part of the process is to place the bet – for example, by placing a bet on a football game or buying a scratchcard.

Gambling can be a social activity, and many people enjoy it with friends or colleagues. It can also be an effective way to learn about probability, statistics and risk management. It is also an entertaining pastime, and people often have a sense of accomplishment when they win a bet.

Research suggests that most people with a gambling disorder do not seek help, and only about one in ten people who have a problem actually get treated. Various types of counselling are available, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Many people also benefit from joining a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery program used by alcoholics.

While some studies have shown that gambling can increase economic productivity, these results are generally based on anecdotal evidence, newspaper accounts and bankruptcy court reports. Further work is needed to develop a more objective and comprehensive methodology for estimating the net positive economic effects of gambling, and for evaluating externality costs, such as crime-related costs and social service expenditures.