Gambling is an activity in which a person risks something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value. It can involve the use of skills, but there is an element of chance that cannot be discounted. Some forms of gambling are regulated, such as the lottery and some casino games. Non-regulated forms of gambling can include poker and sports betting.
Some people with gambling disorders find it difficult to stop. They may feel compelled to place bets even when they are losing money, or they may spend more and more of their disposable income on gambling, hiding the extent of their problem from family members and committing illegal acts such as theft and fraud to fund their addiction. They often exhibit a range of negative emotions such as guilt, anxiety, depression and shame.
There is no single definition of pathological gambling or gambling disorder, and diagnostic criteria vary according to the clinician. However, the American Psychiatric Association defines pathological gambling as a problem when a person:
(1) loses control of his or her gambling; (2) gambles to escape unpleasant feelings, such as sadness or boredom; (3) lies to cover up the extent of his or her involvement in gambling; (4) regularly uses credit cards or other means of borrowing money to finance gambling; (5) tries to get back the money he or she has lost by placing new bets (chasing); and (6) engages in other illegal activities, such as forgery or fraud, to support the gambling habit.
The best way to overcome a gambling problem is to seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders, such as depression, stress or substance abuse. These problems can trigger or make worse a gambling addiction, and they can also cause other health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
It is also important to strengthen your support network. Talk to friends and relatives about the problem, and consider joining a group for gamblers anonymous, which follows a similar model to alcoholics anonymous. This can help you realize that you are not alone and that other people have successfully overcome their gambling problems.
You can also seek help for your gambling problem by seeing a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who offers cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of treatment helps you change unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs, and teaches you to solve financial, work and relationship problems caused by your gambling addiction. You can also try to find other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. Taking these steps can give you the strength to stop gambling, or at least limit your spending and the amount of money you lose. Eventually, you will be able to enjoy life again without having to rely on gambling as your primary source of enjoyment. It takes courage and strength to admit that you have a gambling addiction, but it is possible to break the cycle and rebuild your life.