Gambling is a popular pastime for many people. However, some people develop a gambling disorder that can cause them to lose control of their finances and negatively affect their personal relationships and careers. Whether you’re buying lottery tickets, placing bets on sports events or playing the pokies, gambling is inherently risky and it’s important to know the risks before taking part. If you’re prone to losing money, it’s important to seek treatment and make changes to your lifestyle.
Although the psychiatric community has long viewed gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction, in May this year, the APA moved pathological gambling into the “impulse control disorders” chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This decision was made in response to new research that has strengthened the evidence supporting the theory that gambling is a genuine addictive behavior, just like kleptomania or trichotillomania (hair-pulling).
While some people have no problem with gambling, others develop a gambling disorder, which is characterized by a preoccupation with gambling, a desire to increase wager sizes to sustain excitement levels while gambling, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling, a need to gamble to escape problems or depressed moods, a tendency to conceal the extent of their gambling activities, a feeling that they are unable to control their gambling, a desire to regain losses through continued betting, and a habit of jeopardizing relationships or jobs to finance gambling. It can also lead to an increased reliance on others for financial support, illegal acts to fund gambling and gambling-related stress and anxiety.
The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorder, but several types of psychotherapy can help. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, teaches patients to identify and change unhealthy thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It can also teach them healthier ways to relieve boredom or unpleasant emotions, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.
Despite its popularity, gambling isn’t healthy for anyone. It’s essential to avoid gambling with money that you need to save for bills or rent, and to never gamble on credit. Gambling should be seen as a form of entertainment and not as a way to make money. It’s also a good idea to balance gambling with other activities that give you satisfaction, such as family and work. And finally, it’s important to never gamble when you’re upset or stressed. Doing so could lead to an even greater loss than if you hadn’t gambled at all.