Gambling involves putting something of value at risk on an event whose outcome is determined by chance and with the hope of winning a prize. It can include putting money on football matches, horse races, lottery tickets, dice games, cards, scratchcards, bingo, slot machines, racing cars, and more. Gambling can be either social or professional. Examples of social gambling are playing card games for a small stake with friends, betting on sporting events or buying lottery tickets as a group. Professional gamblers are those who make a living from the practice.
Many people enjoy gambling and do not have problems, but some develop a serious addiction that affects their lives, relationships, and careers. It is sometimes called pathological gambling, which is recognized as a mental health disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
The earliest known form of gambling was found in China, where tiles from 2,300 B.C. were discovered that were designed to be used in a rudimentary form of lottery. Since that time, the popularity of gambling has grown and become an integral part of society. Many states have legalized the practice, and people can place bets on almost any event, from sports to politics to the stock market.
There is a wide range of treatment options for those who are addicted to gambling, from self-help programs such as Gamblers Anonymous, to intensive outpatient and residential treatments. Most people who have an addictive problem with gambling will require some form of psychological treatment to overcome their condition.
Symptoms of a gambling addiction can include: (1) spending more than you can afford to lose; (2) lying to family members, therapists, or employers in order to conceal the extent of your involvement with gambling; (3) trying to recover lost money by returning to gambling again and again (“chasing” losses); and (4) jeopardizing or losing a job, education, relationship, or career opportunity due to gambling (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Treatment for gambling addiction is becoming increasingly available and effective, including inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs, and telehealth services for those who cannot travel or do not live close to a facility.
The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. This can be a difficult step, especially if your addiction has caused financial problems or strained or broken relationships. However, it is important to realize that you are not alone and that there are many other people who have successfully overcome this problem. Seek support from loved ones and join a peer-support program such as Gamblers Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, consider seeking marriage, career, or credit counseling to work through the issues that have led to your gambling addiction. Lastly, get physical and find ways to relieve stress that do not involve gambling, such as yoga or taking up a new hobby. These steps will help you to regain control of your life and build healthy relationships.