Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value on an event whose outcome is unknown. This can be in the form of money, items or a person’s life. Many people gamble for fun, to socialise or as an escape from stress or worries, but for some it becomes a serious problem and can cause significant harm. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of gambling problems so that you can seek help if needed.
Symptoms of a gambling addiction include:
(1) Continuing to gamble even after losing significant amounts of money; (2) lying or downplaying your involvement in gambling to family members, friends, coworkers or therapists; (3) betting more than you can afford to lose; (4) chasing your losses (trying to win back money that you’ve lost); (5) engaging in illegal activities, such as forgery, embezzlement, fraud, or theft, to fund your gambling or replace the money that you’ve lost; and (6) jeopardizing or ruining important personal relationships, work, education, or other opportunities in order to gamble (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
While there is no cure for gambling disorder, counseling and self-help tips can be useful in helping someone manage their gambling behaviour. Counseling focuses on the person’s thoughts and beliefs about gambling and how they impact their life. It may also look at how they cope with triggers and urges to gamble. It is important to address any coexisting mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, that are contributing to the gambling behaviour.
Changing a person’s thinking and behaviour around gambling can be challenging, particularly if they have been gambling for a long time. This is because the reward centers in the brain are accustomed to receiving rewards from healthy behaviours, such as spending time with family, eating healthy food, or exercising. These changes can be difficult, especially if the person has been experiencing a lot of financial loss and strained or broken relationships as a result of their gambling habits.
A person’s decision to gamble can be influenced by family and friends, their beliefs and values, and cultural or social norms. They can also be influenced by the availability and marketing of gambling venues in their local area. However, the biggest factor in deciding whether or not to gamble is the individual’s willingness to do so and their level of self-control. Those who are struggling to control their gambling often find it easier to give up if they have the support of others. This can be through family and friends, a therapist or support group. It is also important to remove triggers by reducing financial risk factors such as credit card usage, limiting access to online betting sites, closing bank accounts and keeping only small amounts of cash on hand. Also, finding alternative recreational or socialising activities can help to reduce the desire to gamble.