People gamble for many reasons: to win money, to socialize with friends, to relieve boredom or stress and to escape from problems at home, work or school. For some people, gambling becomes a serious problem that negatively impacts their mental health and life. People with gambling disorders may experience depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. They may be unable to work or care for their children. They may spend more and more time gambling, borrow money or hide their gambling activity from family members. Some people even resort to illegal activities to fund their addiction, such as stealing, embezzlement or forgery.
Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the hope of gaining some type of monetary or material reward (Oxford English Dictionary, 1989). In modern times, skill can influence some gambling activities, but they are still considered to be gambling because the odds of winning are not greatly improved by the use of skills. For example, knowing the rules of a game can help you increase your chances of winning at cards or in a horse race.
Research shows that the brain is affected by gambling, and people with gambling disorders exhibit impaired self-control. They may engage in dangerous behaviors such as lying, stealing and borrowing money to finance their gambling or may jeopardize their relationships, jobs, education, or health. They may also experience depressive or anxious symptoms and feel guilt, shame, or anger when they lose. In severe cases, they may attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts.
Many people are able to stop gambling on their own, but some need help from a professional. Treatment for gambling disorder can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to identify and change unhealthy gambling behaviors. It can also help people to resolve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by gambling. Some treatment programs also provide support groups and other resources.
A person who has a gambling disorder should seek help immediately. He or she should make an appointment with a doctor or therapist who has been trained to recognize this condition. The therapist will assess the patient’s psychological and social functioning, as well as conduct a physical examination. In addition, the therapist will recommend a variety of therapeutic techniques. These will likely include talk therapy, medication and, if necessary, psychotherapy. Some patients may also benefit from joining a support group for gambling problems, such as Gamblers Anonymous.