Gambling is a risky activity where you wager something of value on an event that relies on chance. You can bet on horse races, sporting events or even the pokies in your local pub. Many people have a small amount of money they gamble with occasionally, but for some it can become an addiction. This can affect their lives, relationships and leave them in debt. If you suspect you have a gambling problem, there are ways to get help and support.
Problem gambling is often triggered by mental health issues, and can also make existing conditions worse. Those with depression, stress or anxiety are more likely to develop an unhealthy relationship with gambling. Gambling can also act as a way of hiding from problems, or escaping reality. However, it is important to seek treatment for these conditions before you begin to gamble.
Research is ongoing into the causes of gambling disorders, but there are a number of factors that contribute to a person developing a habit or addiction. These include:
Age: Those who start gambling in childhood or in the teenage years are more likely to develop an addictive pattern. This is partly due to the developmental stage of this group, but can also be attributed to social influences from family and friends. Sex: Men are more likely to have a gambling problem than women. This can be a result of social influences, but is also often linked to sex-related mental health problems.
Genetics: There is a genetic component to the tendency to develop a gambling disorder. This is based on the fact that some families have a history of gambling problems and that there is a genetic link between gambling and certain genes.
If you are concerned about your or a friend’s gambling behaviour, it is important to get help and advice as soon as possible. You can seek support from peer groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, or from an addiction specialist, such as a counsellor or psychologist. You can also take steps to address any underlying mood issues, such as depression or anxiety, that may be contributing to the problem.
The first thing to do is set boundaries in managing your money. This means putting a stop to credit card use, closing online betting accounts, setting up automatic payments and keeping only a limited amount of cash on you at all times. It is also important to see your doctor if you are worried about a gambling addiction, so they can assess the situation and prescribe any necessary medication. You could also consider seeking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which can help you learn to resist irrational beliefs about gambling. For example, you might believe that certain rituals can bring luck or that a string of losses will be followed by a winning streak. CBT can help you to reframe these beliefs and change your thinking so that you are more realistic about your chances of success.