The amount of money legally wagered worldwide each year is approximately $10 trillion. Whether it’s playing poker, betting on horse races or putting money in the lottery, gambling is a popular pastime and often a source of entertainment. However, for some people, gambling becomes a serious problem that interferes with work and social life. The good news is that there are many ways to treat gambling addiction.
Most forms of gambling involve risking something valuable in an attempt to win another item of value, with the exception of skill-based games like chess or backgammon. A person may also place a bet on an event in order to gain social interaction with others or simply for fun. Social gambling can take the form of playing card games, board games or dice for small amounts of money in a private setting, participating in a friendly sports wagering pool or buying lottery tickets with coworkers. Some people make a living by gambling professionally, with the highest earning gamblers achieving high levels of skill and consistency.
Gambling is a common activity for teenagers, but it’s usually prohibited for minors to participate in regulated lotteries and other state-licensed gaming activities. Teenagers often engage in non-regulated forms of gambling, such as skill-based games, poker and dice, or placing bets on sports events. Some of these activities are influenced by the popularity of television shows and celebrities, which encourage young people to try their luck.
Pathological gambling is a mental health condition characterized by maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors, typically starting in adolescence or young adulthood. It’s estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for a pathological gambling diagnosis, and men tend to develop it at a faster rate than women. Pathological gamblers also experience a higher comorbidity with substance use disorders and more severe symptoms than non-pathological gamblers.
It takes a tremendous amount of strength and courage to admit that one has a gambling problem, especially when the addiction has cost you your career or strained or destroyed relationships. But it is possible to break the habit, even if you’ve lost a great deal of money and suffered severe financial and personal consequences.
One of the most important steps is to regain control of your finances. Begin by getting rid of credit cards and other forms of debt, close online betting accounts, and keep a small amount of cash on hand for gambling purposes. It’s also important to set limits and stick to them, including time limits for gambling sessions and refusing to gamble when you’re depressed or upset.
Another important step is to strengthen your support network, both in-person and online. Join a community for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and offers help for anyone struggling with gambling problems. Lastly, it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling. Your therapist can help you understand the roots of your gambling behavior and provide practical strategies for managing it.