Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. It requires three elements: consideration, risk, and a prize. Gambling can take many forms, from playing a slot machine or placing a bet on a game of chance to buying a lottery ticket or tossing a coin in the air. There are also other types of gambling, such as sports betting and horse racing.
Psychiatrists have long recognized that addiction to gambling is a serious problem that may require treatment. The ten-year anniversary of the publication of Gabbard’s Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders marked an important milestone in this respect: psychiatry finally acknowledged that gambling is a behavioral addiction and that pathological gambling shares many features with substance use disorders (Gabbard, 5th ed). In fact, the DSM-5 has moved problem gambling from a category on impulse control disorders to one on behavioral addictions. This reflects research showing that the biological basis of gambling is similar to that of other addictive substances.
Like other forms of addiction, the path to recovery from gambling addiction is difficult. Many people with an addiction to gambling find it hard to admit that they have a problem, and even when they do, it can be very challenging to overcome their compulsion to gamble.
Seeking professional help is the best way to get on the road to recovery from gambling. Psychological therapy can help you learn how to recognize the warning signs of gambling addiction and address underlying mood problems, such as depression or stress. Counseling can include family and marriage therapy, career and credit counseling, and other forms of individual and group therapy.
Other steps you can take to prevent gambling addiction include establishing a solid support network, finding other activities to spend time on, and staying away from alcohol and drugs. If you must gamble, do it only for fun and always play within your budget. Keep in mind that gambling is a risky activity, and you will probably lose some money. Avoid chasing your losses, as this will only increase them. Make it a rule to never gamble when you are upset or depressed.
Some people with an addiction to gambling find it helpful to join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous. Other options for gaining support include reaching out to family and friends, and exercising, reading, joining a sports team or book club, taking a class, volunteering, or spending time with pets. Some researchers have found that physical activity can reduce the urge to gamble. In addition, there are several telephone and internet-based helplines and organisations that offer assistance and support to people with gambling problems. These services can be found by searching online for “gambling addiction” or “problem gambling”. Some of these services also provide family and financial counselling. These services can be very helpful in restoring damaged relationships and helping individuals and families to recover financially.