Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, whether they bet on football games, horse races or lottery draws. However, a growing number of Americans are suffering from gambling addictions that interfere with their work, family and social lives. For many of these individuals, a gambling addiction is hard to recognize, and treatment can be difficult to find.
In the past, psychiatric professionals often dismissed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addictive behavior. But in the 1980s, as part of a broader revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association officially classified it as an impulse control disorder along with other conditions like kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). The move was widely viewed as a milestone that moved gambling closer to the ranks of other addictive disorders.
Although the compulsion to gamble is similar to other types of compulsive behaviors, researchers still have much to learn about its causes and consequences. For example, researchers are interested in how a person’s moods might influence their gamblers disorder. Depression, stress or other mood disorders can both trigger gambling problems and make them worse, so it is important to seek help for any underlying issues.
Another area of concern is the impact that legalized gambling has on society, especially communities in which it is prevalent. In the United States, it is estimated that more than two million people struggle with a gambling disorder and that this problem negatively affects family, friends and the economy. For this reason, a need for more effective treatment options is urgent.
A key to overcoming gambling addiction is gaining support from loved ones. If you are struggling, consider reaching out to friends and family for help, or join a gambling recovery support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups can help you deal with underlying issues that may be causing your gambling problems, as well as providing a safe environment for you to practice new coping skills and develop healthier habits.
It is also essential to address any financial issues that may be contributing to your gambling disorder. In addition to seeking financial advice, you can reduce your temptations by cutting up credit cards, putting someone else in charge of finances, closing online betting accounts and only carrying a small amount of cash with you. You can also try to spend time with non-gambling friends, exercise more, or take up hobbies that don’t involve money. You could even try learning meditation or other relaxation techniques to help you focus your attention and calm your mind. It is helpful to set limits in advance, for example only gambling with a portion of your disposable income and stopping when you hit that limit. Moreover, it is vital to avoid chasing losses, as this can lead to bigger and bigger losses. Set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to stop.