Gambling involves betting something of value (usually money) on an event with uncertain outcome. The event could be a game of chance or skill, such as a horse race or lottery. The act of gambling also includes wagering materials that have a value but are not actual money, such as marbles or collectible game pieces (such as those from pogs or Magic: The Gathering).
People gamble for many reasons. Some do it to relieve stress, while others feel a rush of excitement from the potential for winning big. The euphoria from gambling can be tied to the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that causes us to feel good when we win. Regardless of the reason, there is always the possibility that gambling will become an addiction and cause significant harm.
When someone has a problem with gambling, it can affect the entire family and their relationships. Depending on the severity of the problem, inpatient and residential treatment programs may be required. In addition, problems with gambling can interfere with a person’s ability to work or complete their schooling. People with severe gambling problems may even find themselves in legal trouble.
The first step in coping with a loved one’s problem is to recognize the issue. If you notice that your loved one is spending more time and money gambling than they do on other activities, it’s important to have a discussion with them about the issue. You can ask them to set time and money limits, take their credit cards away, have someone else manage their finances, close online betting accounts or at least limit the amount of money they keep in cash on them.
Often, problem gambling is a hidden activity and can be hard to detect. The person who is gambling may start lying to friends or family members about how much they’re gambling or how frequently they’re gambling. They may even begin to hide evidence of their gambling from you or lie about their gambling activity altogether.
The best way to fight compulsive gambling is to address any underlying mood disorders or other issues that may be making it difficult to cope with life. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse can all trigger or make worse gambling behavior. It’s also important to have a strong support network in place that can help you when you’re struggling with gambling. This can include family, friends and a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. The 12-step recovery program is based on Alcoholics Anonymous and helps people overcome addiction to gambling by pairing them with a sponsor, who is usually a former gambler who has experience overcoming the problem. Many other organizations offer gambling recovery support groups for both adults and adolescents. These are often free and available in schools, churches, community centers, and public libraries. Some even offer online meetings. In addition, there are many self-help books and online resources that can provide additional help. Lastly, a trained mental health professional can provide cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for gambling disorders.