Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on the horses or spinning the reels of a slot machine, gambling involves risking something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value. While most people have a good time and enjoy the adrenaline rush of a big win, some people have a problem. Whether it’s mild, moderate or severe, the symptoms of gambling disorder can cause significant harm to a person and their family.
Symptoms of gambling disorder include preoccupation, losing control, and chasing losses. People can also experience feelings of anxiety and guilt. Some may even have suicidal thoughts. The causes of gambling disorders can be complex, but research suggests that some people have a biological predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity, while others might be more likely to fall victim to the lure of easy money or peer pressure. A person’s culture can also play a role, since some cultures place a high value on gambling as a social activity and it can be difficult to recognize when gambling becomes problematic.
It can be hard to admit that you have a problem, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships as a result. However, recognizing that you have a gambling disorder is the first step towards getting help. You can find support and treatment through therapy, peer groups and self-help tips.
There are four main reasons people gamble: for social reasons, to win money, to get a rush or to escape from boredom or stress. Gambling can also be an outlet for unpleasant feelings such as anger, fear and sadness. However, if you’re gambling to make money or to relieve unpleasant feelings, it can become a vicious cycle, as you’ll feel more and more frustrated if you lose.
Although it’s hard to know when gambling becomes a problem, there are some warning signs. For example, you might start betting more than you can afford to lose, borrowing money or avoiding important tasks to gamble. You might also start thinking that you’re due for a big win or that you can make your losses back. This is known as the “gambler’s fallacy”.
If you have a gambling addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Your doctor or therapist can recommend treatments that can help you break the cycle of gambling and recover your life. These treatments might include psychodynamic therapy, which looks at how unconscious processes can affect your behavior, or group therapy, where you’ll meet with other people who are experiencing similar problems. You can also access marriage, family and credit counseling to work through the specific issues that have been created by your gambling disorder. If you can’t afford to pay for therapy, some states offer free or low-cost services. You can also reach out to a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.