Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on horse races or using the pokies (Australian slot machines), gambling is a part of many people’s lives. But for some, it can be harmful. It can affect their health, relationships, work or study, get them into debt or even lead to homelessness. It’s important to understand how gambling works so you can be aware of the risks and make better decisions about how much you gamble.
Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome and a prize. It includes activities such as lotteries, casino games, sports betting, and other forms of online gaming. A key aspect of gambling is the element of risk, which can involve the loss of money or other material goods. It can also be emotionally draining and socially isolating. Those who struggle with problem gambling may have difficulty regulating their emotions or impulses.
The understanding of the adverse consequences of gambling has undergone profound change. Historically, individuals who suffered from the problems of gambling have been viewed as gamblers with mental health problems. More recently, the view has been that they are gambling addicts and their behaviour is a form of addiction similar to alcoholism. This shift has been reflected in, and stimulated by, the changing clinical classification of pathological gambling in successive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Unlike other addictions, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders. However, counseling can help you explore your relationship to gambling and think about ways to manage it. Counseling can also be useful for family members who struggle with a loved one’s urge to gamble. It can be helpful to seek counseling for co-occurring issues such as depression or anxiety, which can contribute to problematic gambling behavior.
Longitudinal studies of gambling behaviors are becoming more common and sophisticated. Such studies can provide information on how long a person has been gambling and the onset and severity of gambling problems. Unfortunately, longitudinal studies face many obstacles including financial constraints, the potential for bias due to sample attrition and aging effects, as well as the difficulty of obtaining a large enough sample size.
When you are tempted to gamble, try to postpone the urge by doing another activity. Often, if you can hold off for just a few minutes, the urge will pass or weaken. You can also practice relaxation exercises to deal with gambling cravings. You can also find a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, to connect with others who are dealing with gambling disorders. You can also find help through community programs such as gambling hotlines and treatment clinics. It’s also worth seeking family therapy and marriage, career or credit counseling to address the specific challenges that problem gambling can create. This will help you repair your relationships and finances. You can also take responsibility for managing your own money and credit by setting boundaries with a loved one who is struggling with gambling.