Gambling is any activity in which people risk something of value in the hope of winning money or other prizes. This can include playing lottery games, gambling on horse races, placing bets with friends and betting on sporting events. Most gamblers win more than they lose, but some lose a great deal of money and end up with serious financial problems. In addition to a loss of funds, gambling can cause emotional distress and other negative effects on health and relationships. It’s important for those who have a gambling problem to seek treatment and recovery.
The most significant step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that there’s a problem. Often, it takes tremendous strength and courage to realize that you’ve lost control of your money and that your gambling is affecting other areas of your life. Thankfully, help is available for anyone struggling with this problem, from inpatient gambling rehab to outpatient programs and even support groups.
Educate yourself on the risks of gambling. Gambling can lead to serious problems, including bankruptcy, gambling addiction and gambling-related family violence. It’s also essential to learn healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.
Understand how gambling affects your community. Many towns and cities depend on gambling as a major source of tax revenue, which can be used to fund public services, social services, and local infrastructure projects. These revenues can also help local businesses and keep unemployment rates low.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. But in the 1980s, while updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling to the section on impulse-control disorders, along with kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (“hair pulling”).
There are a variety of different treatments for gambling addiction. Some are more effective than others, but most involve some combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches people to recognize and resist irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of losses is a sign that a big win is imminent. Medications help reduce the urge to gamble by blocking the release of dopamine, a chemical that stimulates the brain’s reward centers. In general, the most effective treatments are those that address underlying mood disorders. Depression, stress and substance abuse are all known to trigger gambling problems and can make them worse. Treating these conditions can help you break the cycle of gambling and improve your quality of life.