Gambling involves risking money or something else of value on an event whose outcome depends on chance, such as scratchcards, lottery games, bingo, and betting on horse races or sports events. It is considered a problem when it causes significant distress or impairment in a person’s life and may affect relationships, work, education, or other activities. While most people who gamble do so without problems, a small subset develop pathological gambling (PG), defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. PG symptoms appear in adolescence or early adulthood and can cause serious personal, social, and financial problems.
The most common types of gambling are games of chance, such as slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and poker, which are available in brick-and-mortar casinos and online. Other forms of gambling include keno, dead pool, lotteries, pull-tab games, and Mahjong. Most countries have laws that regulate the gambling industry. Many religious groups oppose gambling, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Iglesia ni Cristo.
While some people are able to stop gambling on their own, most need help to break the cycle. It’s important to strengthen your support network, find healthy ways to handle stress, and address any other mental health conditions that may be contributing to gambling behavior. It’s also helpful to budget your money so that you can only gamble with disposable income and not money you need for bills or rent.
Identifying the signs and symptoms of a gambling disorder is the first step to getting the help you need. A therapist can teach you techniques to change unhealthy emotions and behaviors, and psychotherapy can help you build a strong foundation for healthier relationships and finances. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorders, but several types of psychotherapy can help.
There are also self-help books, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, and peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous that can help you get back on track. Finding a sponsor, a former gambler who can share their experience of remaining free from addiction, is a key part of these programs.
Developing a strong foundation for healthy relationships and finances is key to overcoming any type of gambling addiction. Changing negative behaviors and creating a positive environment can be difficult, but it’s worth it to live the life you want. If you need to, find a therapist who can provide the right treatment for you and support you along the way. You can find a qualified therapist by searching our directory. Then, take control of your finances by removing credit cards from your wallet and putting someone else in charge of them, closing online betting accounts, and keeping only a limited amount of cash on you. You can also make it more difficult to gamble by limiting your time at casino websites and finding new, non-gambling hobbies.