Whether it’s buying a Lotto ticket, placing a bet on sports events or using the pokies, most people gamble at some point in their lives. But while most gamble safely, a small percentage develop a gambling disorder, which can have serious consequences for their mental health and relationships. In this article, we’ll discuss what gambling is and how it works, different types of gambling and the risk factors for developing a gambling disorder. We’ll also look at the warning signs and what you can do to get help if you think you may have a gambling problem.
Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event where instances of strategy are discounted, and the winnings are generally money or prizes of equal value. It is considered a dangerous activity because of its potential to cause harm and because it can lead to addiction. It is a common disorder, with up to 5% of adolescents and adults suffering from it. It is more prevalent in lower-income groups, and men are more likely to be affected.
People who have a gambling disorder are at higher risk of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders than others. They’re also more likely to experience financial difficulties and be involved in family violence. But the good news is that it’s treatable. Treatment options include counselling, psychotherapy and self-help programs. If your problem is severe, inpatient or residential treatments and rehabilitation programs are also available.
The first step to overcoming a gambling disorder is understanding the underlying issues. This is where cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can come in, which examines the thoughts and beliefs that cause someone to gamble. These might be things like believing that you’re more likely to win than you actually are, or a belief that certain rituals can bring you luck.
In addition to CBT, it’s important to strengthen your support network and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. Try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, enrolling in a class or hobby, and learning relaxation techniques. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be more resilient to the lure of gambling.
It’s worth noting that many of the same psychiatric criteria used to diagnose substance abuse are used to define pathological gambling. However, the DSM-III-R’s decision to emphasize the similarities between the two (literally by copying the criteria for substance dependence) has been criticised for its unidimensionality and middle-class bias (Lesieur, 1984). Moreover, there’s still no evidence that pathological gambling is better characterized as an addiction than as an illness. Consequently, the term “gambling disorder” is controversial and should remain under careful scrutiny. In the meantime, the American Psychiatric Association has adopted a definition of gambling that emphasizes its relationship to psychological distress. This has been endorsed by several international bodies, including the World Health Organization. This approach is more flexible and may be a more useful model for defining addiction than the DSM-III criteria. It also has the advantage of being more user-friendly.