Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event, with the chance of winning a prize. The act of gambling can be a fun and exciting way to spend time, but it can also have serious consequences if it is out of control. A person who has a gambling problem may find that they are spending more and more money, or putting their family or work at risk. Some people also suffer from emotional and psychological distress as a result of their gambling problems. Fortunately, there are many ways to get help for a gambling disorder.
Almost everyone has placed some kind of bet at one point or another, and most do so without any trouble. However, a small percentage of people who gamble develop a gambling disorder, which is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent pattern of problematic gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment.
There are a number of factors that can increase someone’s vulnerability to developing a gambling addiction, including age, sex, and financial situation. For example, men are more likely to have a gambling problem than women, and compulsive gambling is most common among young people and adolescents. It can be difficult to recognise when gambling becomes a problem, so people who have concerns should seek professional advice.
A person who has a gambling addiction may experience a range of symptoms, including tolerance, withdrawal, preoccupation with gambling, and the inability to stop or control gambling. In order to be diagnosed with a gambling disorder, a person must meet at least three of the criteria listed in the DSM-5, which is the standard used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychological disorders. The criteria include the need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the same level of excitement, the inability to control or reduce gambling activity, and the recurrent use of gambling to relieve anxiety or depression.
There is no single treatment for gambling disorder, but research suggests that cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective. This type of therapy teaches people to challenge their irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a string of losses is a sign of an imminent win. Those with a gambling disorder can also learn to avoid triggers, such as the feeling of anticipation that comes when two same-type symbols appear on a slot machine.
In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy, some experts recommend family and marriage counselling, career and credit counseling, and inpatient or residential gambling treatment programs. In some cases, a family member may be able to take control of a loved one’s finances in order to manage their debt and prevent them from gambling. If you are struggling with debt and gambling, it is important to speak to an adviser for free, confidential help.