Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on the horse or sports event, playing casino games or using the pokies, gambling is an activity that involves risking money in hopes of winning something of value. It is also an addictive behaviour that can cause harm. Many people are able to gamble responsibly but for some, gambling can become problematic. If someone is unable to control their gambling habits, it could lead to a financial disaster and jeopardise personal relationships. If you are concerned that you may have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help. A therapist can help you develop strategies to stop gambling and prevent further damage. In addition to individual therapy, family and marriage counseling can help repair the problems that gambling has caused in your life. In addition to helping you deal with your emotions, therapy can help you learn how to budget and manage your finances so that you don’t end up in debt.
Understanding why people gamble can be helpful when trying to overcome a gambling addiction. Some people gamble for social reasons, such as to make a group activity more enjoyable or to relieve boredom. Others may gamble as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as stress, anxiety, depression or loneliness. There are healthier ways to relieve these feelings, such as exercise, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or finding other hobbies.
A small percentage of people have a serious gambling disorder that is recognised by mental health professionals. This condition is called pathological gambling (PG). Approximately 0.4%-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for PG. The disorder can affect both males and females and it often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. Those with PG tend to have more difficulty with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, than nonstrategic forms, such as bingo or slot machines.
While quitting gambling is difficult, maintaining recovery from a gambling addiction can be even more challenging, especially in this age of the Internet, when online casinos and bookmakers are accessible all day, every day. Keeping the recovery process on track requires staying accountable to a support network, avoiding tempting environments and websites, and putting more control of one’s finances in the hands of others.
The most important thing to remember when tackling a gambling addiction is that the problem can be solved, but it will take a lot of effort and support from family and friends. It’s also helpful to find healthier activities to replace gambling in your life, such as reading, exercising, taking up a hobby, or joining a community organisation. Getting involved with a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous is also a great idea. Many members of these groups have experience overcoming gambling addictions and can provide valuable guidance and support.