Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event that is not under your control with the intention of winning a prize. This can be as simple as betting on a football team to win a match, or as complex as playing a casino game. Many people enjoy gambling as a way to socialize with friends, change their mood, or escape from stress. For some, however, gambling can become an addictive behavior. Whether you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, there are resources available to help. These can be in the form of counselling, treatment and support groups.
There are four main reasons people gamble: social, financial, entertainment, and coping reasons. Social reasons include a desire to be part of a group activity, such as going to the racetrack, attending a casino, or buying lottery tickets with friends. Financial reasons involve the dream of becoming a millionaire or improving someone’s financial situation, such as winning the lottery or a jackpot. Entertainment reasons include the adrenaline rush, the possibility of winning a prize, and the sense of achievement.
A number of psychological and behavioral treatments for problem gambling have been developed, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and irrational belief disputing. These methods teach people to recognize their irrational beliefs, and to challenge them. They also learn to recognize their triggers, such as the urge to make a quick bet after a loss.
Longitudinal studies of gambling addiction are becoming more common, although challenges remain for researchers. These studies allow for comparisons between individuals over a period of time. Such research can shed light on the onset of normal and problematic gambling, as well as help researchers to identify the characteristics of individuals who are most vulnerable to developing problems.
The risks of gambling are real and can be severe. Those who are at risk of gambling addiction should seek help as soon as possible. If you know a friend or family member who is addicted to gambling, offer your support. Encourage them to see a therapist and consider other ways to spend their time, such as reading, taking an educational course, joining a club or sports team, volunteering for a cause, or attending peer support meetings, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. If you cannot get your loved one to accept help, do not blame them; they may be unaware that their gambling is causing harm. It is important to remember that just like a drug addict, they did not choose to become addicted to gambling; it was a choice that was made for them. They may try to minimise their problem or deny it. If they do not seek help, the consequences of their gambling habit can affect their relationships, health and work performance. This could lead to a downward spiral, as they spend more money, borrow more and hide evidence of their gambling. They can also be a burden on their family and their community.