Whether it’s buying lotto tickets, scratch cards, betting on sports events or the pokies, gambling involves risking money or something of value for the chance of winning a prize. It can take place in a variety of places, including casinos, bookmakers, gaming halls and online. Many people gamble because they enjoy it, but some become addicted to it. Gambling can lead to problems with work, relationships and finances. It’s important to recognize if you have a problem and seek treatment.
Many people gamble to relieve stress, socialize with friends or escape from everyday life. Others do it to get rich quick or feel good about themselves. The truth is that most people lose money and most of the time you can’t win at gambling. It’s important to understand how gambling works so you can make better decisions about it.
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s gambling habits, you can talk to a counsellor in our free, confidential online counselling service. Alternatively, you can visit a local support group like Gamblers Anonymous for help and advice.
The association between mood disorders and gambling is well established. Studies have shown that more than half of all people with a mood disorder will experience pathological gambling at some point in their lives. In addition, research shows that depression often precedes and is exacerbated by compulsive gambling.
A key part of the problem is that it’s difficult to recognise the warning signs and seek help. In fact, the signs of a gambling problem are often confused with those of other mental health issues such as anxiety and bipolar disorder. It’s also common for people with gambling problems to hide their addiction and lie about how much they’re spending on it.
When you’re concerned about a loved one’s risky gambling, it’s important to have a plan in place. The first step is to set clear boundaries and stick to them. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose. Never borrow money to gamble, and never play when you’re feeling down. Also, don’t try to recoup losses by gambling more or going into debt. This only leads to bigger losses in the long run.
Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you to identify and change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts. This can help you learn to fight gambling urges and solve the financial, family, and relationship problems that are caused or made worse by your addiction. In severe cases of gambling addiction, you may need residential or inpatient treatment. If you’re struggling with gambling addiction, you can take action to reduce your risk of harmful gambling by getting rid of credit cards and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand, putting someone else in charge of your finances, closing online accounts and filling your time with new hobbies. Seek treatment for any underlying conditions that contribute to your compulsive gambling, such as substance abuse or mental health problems like depression or anxiety.