Gambling involves betting something of value on an event that is determined by chance and is reliant on luck. Many people gamble for fun or to socialise, but others develop a gambling addiction which can be very difficult to overcome. In severe cases, people can even become addicted to online gambling. Gambling can lead to serious financial problems, strain relationships and cause stress and anxiety. For some people, a gambling problem can even result in suicide.
Often, people with gambling disorders do not recognize their addiction and may try to rationalize their behavior by saying it is only occasional or they can control it. They may also be unable to recognize the negative effects of their gambling and try to justify it with thoughts such as “it’s my money, I can do what I want.” Some people who have gambling disorders have mood disorders such as depression, which can trigger or make worse the compulsive gambling.
The diagnosis of a gambling disorder is made by mental health professionals using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. In its latest edition, the DSM-5, gambling disorder is listed alongside other addictive behaviors and referred to as a behavioral addiction.
People who gamble often have different reasons for doing so, including seeking an adrenaline rush, the desire to win money and a way to escape from their worries or stress. Some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviors and impulsivity, and research suggests that some brain regions may be differently wired, affecting how individuals process reward information and control their impulses. Other factors that can contribute to a gambling disorder include family history, drug use, and underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.
There are many ways to get help for a gambling addiction, from support groups to treatment and rehab programs. Some are outpatient, while others are inpatient or residential. Those with the most severe gambling problems might need round-the-clock support.
It takes courage and strength to admit you have a gambling problem, especially if it has cost you money or strained your relationships. But it is possible to overcome a gambling addiction and rebuild your life, with the right support. Speak to an expert therapist now, completely free and confidentially.