Gambling is a risky activity that involves wagering something of value on an event where chance plays a role. People gamble for a variety of reasons, from the adrenaline rush to win money to socialising and escaping worries or stress. But for some people, gambling can become a serious addiction. People with this addiction may be putting themselves at financial or psychological risk and need help.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several types of gambling disorders. The most common is pathological gambling, where symptoms begin in adolescence or early adulthood. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, family dynamics, and socioeconomic status. It is also more common among men than women, and it tends to run in families.
While some people can stop gambling on their own, many need professional help to break the habit. Some of the most effective treatments for gambling disorders are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and group counseling. Other treatments include medication, yoga, and meditation. These therapies can be combined to create a personalized treatment plan.
The first step to getting help is admitting that you have a problem. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or strained relationships with family and friends as a result of your gambling. But remember that you’re not alone — many others have overcome this issue and rebuilt their lives.
Identify the triggers of your gambling behavior. You might gamble to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as loneliness or boredom, after a stressful day at work, or after an argument with your spouse. If you’re finding yourself tempted to gamble, find healthier ways to relieve those feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying relaxation techniques.
Learn how gambling affects your brain. During gambling, the brain releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited and happy. However, this happens regardless of whether you win or lose, which can make it hard to recognize when it’s time to stop.
Set a time limit for yourself when you play. This will help you keep track of how much time you’re spending gambling and avoid going over your budget. Most casinos don’t have windows or clocks, so it can be easy to lose track of time and get caught up in a game for hours on end.
Consider joining a support group. These groups can provide the accountability and guidance you need to break your gambling habits. One popular option is Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also seek financial help from credit counselling services, such as StepChange, which offers free and confidential debt advice.
Some people with gambling problems are at greater risk for mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. These conditions can cause gambling problems by making it more difficult to function and cope with daily stresses.