Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property, or other items of value) on an event that is based on chance. This event is typically determined by a game or contest with rules and a prize, such as money, merchandise, or services. There are many types of gambling, including lottery, horse racing, and skill-based games. Gambling is regulated in some countries and in others, it is illegal. Some people experience problems with gambling and may need treatment.
Problem gambling is an addiction that affects a person’s health, work or school performance, relationships, and finances. Symptoms of problem gambling include being unable to control the amount of money that is wagered and/or losing money or assets. Some people may also experience thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
The brain’s chemical response to gambling triggers dopamine, which is associated with a rush of excitement when winning. This is why it can be hard to quit gambling and how the activity can lead to compulsive behaviour. Several factors can contribute to problematic gambling, including social inequality and stress, a family history of addiction or mental illness, trauma or abuse, depression, and substance misuse. Gambling disorder can start at any age and it tends to run in families.
There are many ways to treat a gambling addiction, and many types of therapy can be helpful. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used, and focuses on changing the way you think about betting. For example, CBT can address beliefs such as believing you are more likely to win, or that certain rituals can bring luck. It can also look at how you handle your emotions, as depression and anxiety are often linked to gambling.
Other therapies can be helpful, such as family and marriage counseling and self-help groups for families such as Gamblers Anonymous. Exercise is also known to help. Many states have gambling helplines and some even have special programs for children and teenagers who are at risk.
Some people have a gambling disorder, but are not yet diagnosed with a pathological gambler. They may still have a high level of gambling involvement that negatively impacts their lives, but they do not meet all the criteria for pathological gambling. They may be progressing toward pathological gambling or they may have met the criteria at some point in their life and are now in recovery.
It can be difficult to cope with a loved one who has a gambling disorder. It is important to seek support and be aware of what the risks are, so you can avoid them. It is also useful to learn healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as spending time with friends who don’t gamble, exercising, or taking up new hobbies. It is also important to set boundaries in managing household funds to prevent them from being accessed for gambling.