Gambling is any activity that involves risking something valuable on an event that is at least partly determined by chance, in the hope of winning a prize. It can include everything from scratchcards and fruit machines, to betting on horse races and sports events. The majority of people have gambled at some point in their lives. However, some people have a problem with gambling. The problem may affect their health, work or relationships. It can also cause them to become depressed or anxious. If you think you have a gambling problem, you should seek help immediately.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to develop problematic gambling behaviour. This is especially true in those with a family history of depression and suicide. Other factors that influence whether someone will develop problem gambling are their environment, culture and the type of gambling available where they live. They may also be influenced by their family or friends, as well as by advertising and social pressures.
How to recognize problem gambling
Mental health professionals have developed criteria that help them identify when someone has a problem with gambling. These criteria are used to diagnose a condition called “Gambling Disorder.” The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists Gambling Disorder alongside other addictive behaviors. A person is considered to have a gambling disorder if they meet three or more of the following criteria:
Feels an urge to gamble even when they don’t have any money to spare. Spends increasing amounts of time and money on gambling. Becomes restless and irritable when they try to cut down on gambling or stop altogether. Often feels frustrated and guilty after they lose a bet. Often tries to win back their losses by gambling more money. Often lies to their family or therapist about the extent of their involvement with gambling. Has jeopardized a relationship, job or educational opportunity because of their gambling.
Why people gamble
Gambling is often associated with feelings of euphoria, which are triggered by the release of dopamine in the brain. People also like to gamble because it can be a fun way to spend time with friends. However, some people are unable to control their gambling behaviour and it can lead to serious problems, including debt, financial ruin and even suicide.
There are many ways to get help if you have a gambling problem. You can call a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, talk to your GP or psychologist or see a therapist for help with dealing with gambling urges. There are also many state and national gambling helplines. You can also go to family therapy or marriage, career and credit counseling for help with the issues that have been caused by your gambling. Changing your thinking about gambling can help you break the habit. Instead of thinking about it as a way to make money, you can think about it as an expense like going out for dinner or using the pokies.