Gambling is when you risk money or something of value to predict the outcome of a game that relies on chance, such as on scratchcards, fruit machines or betting with friends. If you win, you get money; if you lose, you lose the amount you gambled. It can be a problem if you do it to excess or it interferes with your work, relationships and everyday life. It’s important to seek help for your gambling if you think it’s causing problems, or to learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings.
People who are predisposed to gambling problems may have genetic and/or environmental factors that influence the way they process reward information, control impulses and weigh risk. The prevalence of mental health disorders (like depression, stress and substance abuse) can also trigger or worsen gambling behaviours. Some people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder than others, and age is a factor as well. Young people, particularly adolescents, are at greater risk for developing a gambling disorder than adults.
A gambling addiction is a serious mental health condition that causes someone to be preoccupied with or obsessed with gambling, despite the negative impact it has on their lives. It can cause serious financial, social and relationship difficulties. It’s important to seek treatment for a gambling addiction as soon as you recognise it, before it gets out of hand.
Many people have a natural attraction to gambling and some even have a talent for it. For them, it’s a fun way to relax and socialise with friends. But for some, it becomes a dangerous addiction that can have a devastating effect on their lives.
There are many warning signs of a gambling addiction. Some of the most common include:
A person who has a gambling addiction will often try to conceal it from family and colleagues. They might hide evidence of their gambling, lie about how much they are spending and even steal money to finance their addiction. If you think your loved one is struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s vital to take action before the situation gets out of hand.
In the past, people who had harmful gambling habits were regarded as having a character flaw or a moral weakness. But, like alcoholism, our understanding of pathological gambling has changed and it is now recognised as a psychological condition. It is classified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and is known as compulsive gambling disorder or gamblng disorder.
The treatment for a gambling disorder generally follows a stepped care model and may involve psychotherapy, self-report and medications. It’s also important to address any underlying mood disorders as these can cause or make up for gambling problems and lead to relapse. It’s also important to remember that not everyone who has a gambling disorder is a criminal or a bad person. There are also many ways that a person can be helped, including support groups and specialist counselling services.