Help For Gambling Problems
Many people enjoy gambling, but for some it is a serious problem. If you are worried that your own gambling is getting out of hand, or the gambling of someone close to you, there is help available. This page explains what gambling is, and offers advice on how to gamble responsibly.
Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, such as a spin of the wheel or a roll of the dice. If you win, you get something of value; if you lose, you have lost the money you bet. Gambling is illegal in some countries, but is legal in others, including the UK. Many forms of gambling exist, from slot machines and casinos to bingo and scratchcards. The term gambling also includes betting on sports and other events, and buying lottery tickets.
A person who is gambling compulsively has a significant and recurrent maladaptive pattern of gambling behavior that interferes with his or her daily functioning. The behavior may start in adolescence or young adulthood and continue throughout life. Among the defining features of pathological gambling is that the gambler cannot control his or her gambling behavior, despite multiple attempts to reduce or stop it.
The American Psychiatric Association defines a person with gambling problems as: (1) an individual who gambles to the point of being unable to control it; (2) who lies to family members, therapists, or others in order to conceal the extent of involvement in gambling; (3) who has jeopardized or lost a job, educational or career opportunity, or a relationship because of involvement in gambling; (4) who has committed illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement in order to finance his or her gambling activity; and (5) who has used credit cards or other financial resources to cover the cost of gambling activities. (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
Those who are concerned that their gambling is becoming a problem should seek help from a doctor or other qualified health professional. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. It can also teach a gambler to challenge irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a series of losses or near misses signals an imminent win.
Some individuals find that it is easier to stop gambling when they have a strong support network to rely on. It is a good idea to try and make new friends who do not involve gambling, and to join groups such as book clubs, sports teams, or volunteer activities. It may also be helpful to join a peer-support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, it is important to seek help for underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can both trigger and be made worse by gambling. A person who is struggling with gambling should also consider seeking help from a mental health specialist.