Gambling is a form of entertainment, fun and relaxation. Many people do it to socialize with friends, have a great time, and even make some money. However, for some people it becomes an addiction that affects their lives and health. Gambling is not an easy addiction to overcome, but there are many resources available to help someone get their life back on track.
Gambling has become a worldwide recreational activity with the growth of the internet and access to casinos, sports betting, lotteries, and video games with gambling elements for adults and children. It can be a source of excitement and thrill when one wins, but also a source of pain when they lose. It is also a common form of addiction among the younger generations because they have easy access to these activities.
Many people do not consider their gambling behavior to be a problem until it becomes evident to others or themselves that it is. The American Psychiatric Association defines problem gambling as “a persistent, recurrent pattern of gambling behavior that is associated with substantial distress or impairment in a person’s everyday functioning.”
Most adults and adolescents have placed some kind of bet, but only a small percentage of them develop a gambling disorder. It can be characterized by the following symptoms:
Symptoms include persistent and uncontrollable urges to gamble, difficulty controlling the amount of money wagered, lying to family members or therapists about the extent of their involvement in gambling, chasing losses (attempting to win back previous losses), committing illegal acts to fund gambling, and jeopardizing relationships, education, employment, or career opportunities. It can also cause other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety.
Some research indicates that there is a link between gambling and suicide. Those who have suicidal thoughts should seek medical attention immediately. If you are concerned about a loved one, seek professional advice from StepChange or call 999.
Although longitudinal studies of problem gambling are essential to understanding risk factors and how a person progresses from subclinical pathological gambling to actual disorder, they are challenging to conduct due to financial, logistical, and ethical challenges. For example, it is difficult to recruit and maintain a large study group over a multiyear period; interpreting data from multiple tests conducted over time can be inaccurate; and adjusting for aging and cohort effects makes comparisons over time problematic.
The best way to treat a gambling disorder is to get help from a therapist or peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Some physical activities may also help, and some research shows that taking a break from gambling can be beneficial. In addition, you should strengthen your support network, find healthy ways to manage stress and boredom, and learn to cope with unpleasant feelings. Try spending more time with friends who don’t gamble, trying new hobbies, or practicing relaxation techniques. You should also seek other ways to increase your income and decrease debt, such as through work, school, or community initiatives.