Recognising and Dealing With Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves wagering something of value on an uncertain event, such as a football match or scratchcard, with awareness of the risk and in hope of gain. It ranges from the buying of lottery tickets and betting with small sums by people with little, to sophisticated casino gambling in which skilled players may make significant profits. Despite the euphoria and excitement it can provide, it is not considered to be an admirable pastime; it can impoverish families and even lead to blackmail. It is often illegal and, even when legal, not socially acceptable.

Some individuals can suffer from a gambling disorder, a psychiatric condition similar to addiction to drugs or alcohol that causes compulsive behavior around gambling. Symptoms can start in adolescence or later in adulthood, and may affect men and women equally. Those with a severe gambling disorder might need inpatient treatment or rehabilitation, where they can receive round-the-clock support.

It is important to recognise if there is a problem, as the compulsion to gamble can take over your life and cause serious harm. You might hide your gambling, lie about how much time or money you are spending on it, or spend more and more to try and win back your losses. You might also start missing work or socialising and feel guilty about your behaviour. It can be hard to admit you have a problem, especially if it has cost you money or strained relationships.

There are many treatment options available, from individual counselling to peer support groups based on Alcoholics Anonymous. A therapist can help you learn to recognise your triggers and develop a plan to avoid gambling or manage your addiction. Family therapy can help you deal with the specific problems caused by your gambling, and marriage, career and credit counseling might be useful if you have damaged your relationships and finances.

Many people start gambling as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, unwind or socialise, but there are healthier and safer ways to do this. You could try exercising, visiting friends who don’t gamble, taking up a new hobby or practicing relaxation techniques. Alternatively, you might consider joining a support group for gambling addicts, which follows a model similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is also helpful to set a budget for your gambling and stick to it. This way you can control how much you are spending, and you will be able to stop when your limit is reached. It is also a good idea to only gamble with cash, and remove your cards from your wallet when going out to gamble so you cannot autofill on gambling sites. You might also like to set a timer or alarm for yourself, as it can be easy to lose track of time while gambling. It is also useful to keep a record of your wins and losses, which can be an effective motivator to stay on the right track. If you have to gamble, you might also want to use a betting system, which increases your chances of winning by changing your bets according to the results of previous bets.