While gambling can be a fun way to socialize, it can also be addictive. It can cause financial problems, disrupt families and lead to mental health issues. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there is help available. Seek treatment, join support groups and try self-help tips to overcome gambling addiction.
Gambling involves betting something of value (the stakes) on an event with an uncertain outcome (the prize), such as a roll of the dice, spin of a roulette wheel or race horse. The result of the wager can range from a small amount of money to life-changing jackpots. People gamble for many reasons, including the excitement of winning and the ability to escape from worries or stress. Some people are more vulnerable to becoming addicted to gambling than others. People with a family history of mental illness, substance abuse or gambling problems are at higher risk. People who have a low sense of control are also more likely to become compulsive gamblers. Gambling can exacerbate mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, and some people with these conditions find that it is easier to engage in harmful behaviour than to address the underlying mood disorder.
In the United States, people can legally play in land-based and online casinos, participate in lottery games, wager on sports events or place bets on horse races. Most adults and adolescents have gambled, but only a small proportion of those who gamble develop an addiction. People who have a low income are more vulnerable to developing an addiction to gambling than those with greater means, because they have more to lose. In addition, men are more likely to be affected by gambling addiction than women.
People who gamble have several options for getting help and treatment, including inpatient or residential rehabilitation, outpatient programs and group therapy. In some cases, a combination of these treatments is required to overcome a gambling addiction. Some individuals may need to take time off from work to address a gambling problem, while others must make changes at home and in their social lives.
If you or a loved one has a gambling problem, it is important to seek help immediately. Some people have suicidal thoughts when they are struggling with gambling addiction. If you or a friend has these thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. Taking steps to protect your finances and personal property from harm is also a good idea. This might include seeking legal advice, changing your will or talking to a financial or therapeutic counsellor. It is also important to strengthen your support network by spending time with other people. You might consider joining a book club or sports team, enrolling in a class or volunteering for a good cause. You might also try a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help to reduce stress and improve coping skills.