Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which individuals wager something of value on an event that involves chance. Its earliest evidence is found on tiles unearthed in ancient China that were used to play a game of chance. The goal is to win a prize based on the outcome of the chance event, which may be money or goods. People gamble for many reasons, including for the adrenaline rush of winning and to socialise or escape from stress. However, if gambling becomes unmanageable, it can cause financial, personal and professional problems. If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s gambling, there are ways to help, including treatment and support groups.
Problem gambling is a condition characterized by maladaptive patterns of betting behavior. It has high comorbidity with other behavioral and emotional disorders, especially substance abuse disorders. The American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling (PG) as persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause distress or significant impairment in multiple areas of functioning, including family, work, or school.
The disorder can lead to an increased risk of suicide, and people with a serious gambling problem often experience depression and other mental health problems. They also tend to spend more time gambling, and often lie to their families and friends about the extent of their problem. They also may steal or sell possessions to finance their gambling activities, and rely on others for money or loans.
A person with a problem may be able to control their behavior when they are in an environment where the likelihood of winning is low. For example, they may only gamble at casinos with a low house edge or a small number of other players. They also might try to avoid socializing with other gamblers and focus on gambling alone or on their computer. They may not even remember the last time they gambled.
Those with an addiction to gambling can be hard to recognize, but signs and symptoms include:
The urge to gamble is often linked to negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear or depression. People who are impulsive or easily bored also have a greater tendency to gamble. In addition, a person with a gambling disorder may:
It is important to seek help for a gambling problem if you suspect that it is getting out of hand. Seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist, and consider joining a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The group can help you find a sponsor, who is a former gambler with experience staying free from the habit. In addition, you can strengthen your support network and find new activities to replace gambling, such as working out or volunteering for a cause. You should also make sure to get enough sleep and eat well. It is easier to resist the temptation to gamble when you’re well rested and nourished. Also, make sure to set a time limit for how long you’ll gamble and leave when that time is up.