If you are concerned about your or someone else’s gambling, it is a good idea to talk about it with a trusted counsellor. They can help you find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and unwind.
Gambling has impacts at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels. These impacts can be positive or negative. Most studies focus on monetary costs, which are easy to measure.
Gambling is any activity in which people place a stake (usually money) on an event that has the potential to result in a gain or loss. It can include all kinds of betting, gaming and participation in lotteries. People who participate in gambling are called gamblers. The behaviour of individuals who develop harmful gambling habits may vary depending on the environment and community in which they live. This chapter uses the term disordered gambling to encompass a range of behaviours that extend from those that are subclinical to those that meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition for pathological gambling.
Researchers, psychiatrists and other treatment care clinicians and public policy makers frame questions about gambling in different ways, reflecting their disciplinary training, world view and special interests. This variation has contributed to the changing understanding of pathological gambling over time.
The origins of gambling go back thousands of years. Evidence of rudimentary games of chance has been found on ancient tiles in China and Egypt, as well as scenes depicting betting on animal fights in Roman and Greek pottery. In modern times, technological advances have created new ways to gamble. From mechanical one-armed bandits to video slots that can be played online, there are many different ways that people can now place bets.
The earliest forms of gambling involved dice games and betting on sports. In the 1400s, playing cards came into use and spread throughout Asia and Europe thanks to returning knights. In the 1800s, new machines were introduced to speed up the process of gambling and the first casinos appeared. Gambling has become a global industry that relies on various types of government regulation and taxation to survive.
People who gamble often use the activity to avoid painful emotions or to relieve boredom. This can make it difficult for family members and friends to know whether a loved one has crossed the line from fun wagering into compulsive gambling.
A history of a mental health condition, like depression, can increase the risk of developing an addiction to gambling. The same is true of a personality disorder, like antisocial personality disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It is also common for gambling disorders to co-occur with other substances or behavioral addictions, such as kleptomania or pyromania (hair pulling). Learning to control impulses and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings can help someone overcome their addiction to gambling. Medications may also be used in some cases.
A therapist can help you identify unhealthy family dynamics and beliefs that contribute to compulsive gambling. They can also teach you how to fight your gambling urges and solve the financial, work, and relationship problems that they cause. You can find a therapist online or through an agency that specializes in addiction treatment.
Behavioral therapy can include exposure therapy with response prevention, which exposes you to triggers and helps you learn to resist them. Other therapy options include cognitive behavioural therapy, which changes the way you think about gambling.
In addition to therapy, identifying healthy lifestyle habits and alternative coping mechanisms is essential for recovery. This includes establishing new leisure activities and developing a stress-management plan. You can also get support from a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous.