Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value, usually money, in a game of chance with the hope of winning more than they lose. It’s one of the most common addictions, and can affect both men and women. It can be difficult to recognise if gambling is causing problems in your life, and you may feel uncomfortable discussing it with others. This is normal, but don’t let it stop you from seeking help.
Many people who have a gambling problem are also struggling with mental health issues, which can be caused or made worse by gambling. The combination of these factors can be dangerous and even life threatening. People with a mental illness are more at risk of gambling to distract themselves, to escape from their problems or as a way to gain reward. This can lead to more gambling and can escalate into a serious addiction.
Gambling has a long history, and it is believed to have originated as divinatory activities. Man was attempting to understand the world around him by throwing marked sticks or objects and then interpreting their results. As time went on, it became more sophisticated and was regulated, and in some cases severely curtailed, by the laws of ancient Rome and Greece, and later by Islam and Buddhism.
Unlike other forms of recreation, gambling requires a significant amount of money to play and can have devastating consequences for those who are affected by it. It can also be highly addictive, leading to depression and other mood disorders, including substance use disorders, which can often be triggered or made worse by gambling.
In recent years, understanding of gambling and its adverse consequences has undergone a fundamental change. It has been reflected in, and stimulated by, changes in the diagnosis of gambling disorder in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The term “pathological gambling” is used to describe persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. Approximately 0.4%-1.6% of Americans meet DSM criteria for pathological gambling. It’s most likely to develop during adolescence or early adulthood and tends to be more prevalent in males. It’s also more likely to develop in strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack and poker, than nonstrategic or noninterpersonal forms, such as slot machines.
Some of the signs of a gambling disorder include: hiding or lying about your gambling habits, chasing losses, and gambling despite negative impact on work, family and education. There are many different treatment options for gambling disorder, but cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common choice. CBT addresses the beliefs you have about betting, such as that certain rituals will bring you luck or that you can win back your losses by gambling more, and how these thoughts influence your behaviour. It also looks at how your emotions can trigger gambling, and how to cope with these. You can get support and advice from a range of places, including Gamblers Anonymous, or state-run gambling helplines and services.