Gambling involves risking something of value, usually money, on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. It is a complex activity that involves the brain, body and emotions, which makes it an attractive activity for some people, but it can also be dangerous. Many gamblers develop a gambling disorder, which causes them to lose control over their gambling activities and lead to severe problems in their lives. It is important to recognize the symptoms of gambling disorder and seek help.
People who gamble are at high risk of developing gambling disorders if they have other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. There is also a link between gambling and suicidal thoughts, so anyone who is worried about suicide should speak to 999 or visit A&E immediately. Those who have low incomes, especially young people and men, are also more likely to develop gambling disorders. Those who have been exposed to trauma or abuse are at greater risk of developing gambling problems, as are impulsive people with antisocial characteristics.
Symptoms of gambling disorder include: a persistent urge to gamble; lying about the extent of your involvement in gambling; betting more than you can afford to lose; chasing losses; and putting finances, relationships or other aspects of your life at risk by gambling. It can also result in committing illegal acts such as forgery, theft and fraud to fund your gambling habit or to replace money you have lost.
The reward center of the brain is affected by gambling. This is why many people gamble to feel good and have a sense of pleasure. However, there are ways to achieve the same feeling without putting yourself at risk. You can try other activities such as exercising, spending time with loved ones or eating a healthy diet.
If you have a problem with gambling, seek treatment with your doctor or therapist. Several types of psychotherapy can help, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps you identify and change unhealthy beliefs about gambling. It can also teach you coping skills to manage your urges to gamble.
Other treatments for gambling disorders include family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling. These can help you address the specific issues that are causing problems in your life and lay the foundation for a stronger, more stable future.
If you are struggling with a gambling addiction, find other activities to do and reach out for support. You can join a support group, like Gamblers Anonymous, or call a hotline for assistance. You can also try to distract yourself when you have an urge to gamble by contacting friends or family members, going on a walk, taking up a new hobby, or attending self-help groups for families such as Gam-Anon. Also, consider starting a savings plan or getting financial help from a credit counselor. You can also take up a sport, enroll in an education class or volunteer for a cause you care about.