Gambling is an activity wherein someone wagers money or something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome. While there are many forms of gambling, the most common include betting on horse races, football accumulators, other sports events, lotteries and instant scratch cards. This type of activity can cause severe problems when it becomes an addiction and it can affect not only the gambler’s finances, but also their physical health, relationships, work or study performance and even get them into legal trouble.
It is estimated that more than half of the population in the UK takes part in some form of gambling. While it can be an enjoyable pastime, some people become addicted and it may have a negative impact on their mental health, physical well-being, family and friends and relationships as well as work or studies. It can also have serious effects on their finances and lead to debt, homelessness and even suicide. The most important thing to remember when gambling is that the odds are stacked against you and the likelihood of winning is very low. Therefore, you should always consider the costs of gambling before deciding to take part in it and never spend more than you can afford to lose. If you feel that your gambling is becoming unhealthy, seek professional help as soon as possible to overcome it.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by recurrent and maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. Those who are diagnosed with PG often report having a history of escalating and recurrent losses, despite efforts to control their gambling; an inability to stop gambling even when they are losing; lies to family members, friends or therapists about the extent of their involvement in gambling; and/or jeopardizing or risking a significant relationship, job, education or career opportunity to finance their gambling.
Several risk factors for a gambling disorder have been identified, including a history of depression or mood disorders and substance abuse. Those with mood disorders typically experience depressive symptoms prior to or shortly after the onset of a gambling disorder.
Treatment for gambling addiction can include psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help patients to identify and change unhealthy thinking and behaviors that are contributing to their gambling addiction. It can also teach them ways to cope with cravings and other stressors that trigger their gambling behavior. In addition, treatment can focus on addressing any underlying conditions that may be contributing to the addiction such as depression or anxiety. It can also include peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In some cases, a patient may need inpatient or residential treatment for severe gambling addiction. This can be provided in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centers. Often, this type of treatment is more successful when combined with peer support and family therapy. The use of a sponsor, who is a former gambler with a successful recovery, can be particularly effective.