Gambling is any game in which you risk something of value (money, property or your life) for the chance to win a prize. It can occur in many settings, including casinos, racetracks, church halls and on the Internet. Although it’s generally considered a form of entertainment, gambling can be dangerous and lead to serious financial problems. This article offers tips for protecting yourself from the risks of gambling.
Often, people who gamble do so as a way to relieve unpleasant feelings or boredom. They may also feel a desire to socialize or escape from their daily routines. However, there are healthier ways to self-soothe or unwind, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. Additionally, underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can trigger excessive gambling behavior.
In 2013, pathological gambling was officially recognized as an addictive disorder and added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. There are currently no medications available to treat the condition, but several types of psychotherapy can be beneficial. In psychodynamic therapy, a mental health professional helps you identify unconscious processes that influence your behavior and work with you to change them. Group psychotherapy is another type of treatment that involves discussing your problem with other people who are struggling with the same issue.
Many people with gambling disorders are unable to control their urges and have difficulty stopping even when they’re losing money. They may lie to family members, coworkers and therapists about how much they’re spending or borrow money from others to support their habit. Some may even engage in illegal activities, such as theft or fraud, to fund their addiction. Some even end up homeless or without a job.
Longitudinal studies of gambling are rare, but some have found that frequent gamblers have a lower brain function and less impulse control than nongamblers. Other research has shown that a person’s genetic and environmental predispositions play a role in their tendency to gamble excessively.
If you know a loved one who has a gambling disorder, try to speak with them about their concerns before it’s too late. The sooner they get treatment, the better their chances are of recovering. You can help by encouraging them to seek treatment and taking over management of their finances, carefully monitoring their bank and credit card statements. However, don’t preach or lecture them and avoid using threats and ultimatums, as these can backfire and make the situation worse. Instead, practice empathy and listen to them thoughtfully.