Gambling involves risking something of value on an event involving chance with the intention to win money or another item of value. It may be done in a casino, on a computer or even with friends at home by placing bets on sports matches. While gambling is not a necessary part of life, it can become dangerous when used as an escape from emotional pain or as a way to avoid dealing with difficult situations. It is also known to contribute to social problems, such as crime, substance use and mental illness.
Like any addiction, gambling can be very difficult to overcome. For some people, it takes a lot of help and support from family, friends or professional counsellors. For others, it’s a case of slowly decreasing the amount of time they spend gambling, or trying to distract themselves from the urge by spending time with their families, taking up new hobbies or finding ways to socialise that don’t involve gambling venues.
It is possible to break this cycle of gambling and it’s underlying urges and behaviours. For example, some people find it helpful to change their environment by moving house, changing their route home or stopping going to places they associate with gambling. Many people who have a problem with gambling will hide their addiction from their loved ones so it can be difficult to know if they are having issues. This is often where the need to gamble becomes more of a compulsion and a behavioural loop, as they keep doing it despite it being harmful to them.
This is why it’s so important to recognise the signs that gambling is causing problems. Those who are struggling should seek out the help they need, which can be found online, from their healthcare providers or by calling the National Council on Problem Gambling for a local referral.
The most common form of treatment for gambling is cognitive behavioural therapy. This is similar to the treatment for other addictions and has been shown to be effective for many people. Other treatments include group therapy, individual counselling and mindfulness-based approaches. There are also many support groups available for those with gambling problems.
Some studies have focused on the economic costs of gambling, but it’s important to recognise that these are only a small part of the picture. Gambling causes many social impacts that are not directly quantifiable, and focusing on them alone can lead to a biased view of the situation. These impacts have been observed at the personal, interpersonal and community/society levels.
Whether or not you’ve ever struggled with gambling, it’s always worth remembering that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to recovery. However, it is a good idea to find an addiction specialist in your area who can assist you with breaking the gambling compulsion. It’s best to do this before the gambling gets out of hand, as it can be very hard to stop once you have.