Gambling is the wagering of something of value (such as money or possessions) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance, rather than skill. Common forms of gambling include casino games like roulette and blackjack, sports betting, lottery, and poker. While many people gamble for entertainment, some become addicted to gambling and are at risk of developing a gambling disorder. In addition to losing money, those who have a gambling problem can also jeopardize their relationships, jobs, education, and personal safety.
People who enjoy gambling do so because the activity stimulates the reward center of the brain, which releases a chemical called dopamine when we experience pleasure. This stimulation helps to reduce stress and boredom, boost moods, and relieve pain. For many, however, it becomes an addiction that leads to financial ruin and serious emotional distress. Gambling disorders are complex and difficult to treat, but there are steps that you can take to help you stop gambling.
A person is considered to have a gambling disorder if:
(1) He or she makes repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop gambling; (2) He or she gambles with increasing amounts of money in an effort to achieve the desired excitement; (3) He or she continues to gamble even when it has adverse consequences on his or her finances, family, job, or other activities; (4) He or she lies to family members, friends, therapists, or employers to conceal the extent of his or her involvement in gambling; (5) He or she has engaged in illegal acts, such as forgery, embezzlement, or theft, to finance his or her gambling; and (6) He or she relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling.
The best way to stop gambling is to make sure that you only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and keep track of how much time you spend gambling. You can also try to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
If you have a friend or loved one who has a gambling disorder, it’s important to speak up and encourage them to seek treatment. Suggest calling a hotline, talking to a mental health professional, or joining a support group like Gamblers Anonymous. Also, be supportive by listening thoughtfully and offering your encouragement without judgment. The more your loved one feels heard, the more likely they are to accept your offer of help. Lastly, set boundaries in managing their money, such as taking over their credit cards, having someone else manage their money, and closing online betting accounts. This will keep them accountable to you and prevent them from using funds intended for other purposes. Ultimately, the only way to successfully treat gambling disorder is with professional care and support from a treatment facility. The earlier a person gets treatment, the better.