Gambling is the act of risking something of value (typically money) on an event that has an element of chance and the opportunity to win a prize. It can be done through lotteries, bingo, cards, slot machines, instant scratch tickets, horse racing, animal races, dice, roulett, and other games of chance. In addition to the obvious financial risks, gambling can lead to an increased risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It can also cause social problems, such as substance abuse, family problems, and legal issues. The social impacts of gambling are a topic of much research, and are most accurately assessed using longitudinal data.
There are a number of things people can do to help prevent gambling from becoming an issue. One way is to talk about the problem with someone who won’t judge you – this could be a friend, family member or professional counsellor. Another way is to reduce the amount of money available for gambling by closing bank accounts, limiting credit card use, having someone else be in charge of funds, or avoiding carrying large amounts of cash. It is also important to balance gambling with other activities and not let it interfere with or take the place of work, family, or socialising.
The onset of gambling addiction is usually gradual, and it can be difficult to recognise when you are developing a problem. Some common symptoms include:
Experiencing withdrawals (feelings of anxiety, panic, guilt, irritability and depression); losing more than you can afford to lose; lying to family members or therapists in order to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling; being involved in illegal acts to fund gambling (forgery, theft, fraud, etc.); jeopardising a relationship, job, or education opportunities; and relying on others to provide money for gambling.
There are a variety of treatment options for gambling addiction, including self-help, group therapy and individual counselling. Self-help includes keeping a diary of gambling events to identify triggers and learn more about what causes the problem. This may involve writing down the type of gambling, how long it was spent and how much money was lost. It is also helpful to find an alternative pastime to replace gambling, such as taking up a hobby, joining a sports team or book club, or volunteering for a charity. Some people also benefit from attending support groups for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery model used by Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition to receiving peer support, participants are encouraged to participate in education programs and attend seminars. This is because the more you understand about what triggers your gambling, the better you can manage it.