Gambling involves risking money or something of value (such as an asset or skill) in the hope of winning more than you invested. While many people gamble casually, some are addicted and experience problems with their gambling. This can lead to financial and social issues such as debt, family difficulties and mental health problems. It can also impact your career, reputation and relationships. People who suffer from a gambling disorder are found across all age groups, income levels and cultures. They may have a range of symptoms ranging from no gambling at all to pathological gambling. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) now recognises that gambling disorder is a behavioral addiction that is similar to substance use disorders such as alcohol or drug addiction.
The first step to overcome a gambling problem is to seek help. There are many treatment options available including therapy, counselling and medication. In addition, support groups are a good way to find encouragement and guidance from others who have experienced a gambling problem. Some groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, follow a 12-step model based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and can provide valuable guidance and support.
There are positive effects from gambling and negative ones as well. For example, gambling can generate income for individuals and businesses as well as create jobs in the industry. However, gambling can also lead to increased debt and even bankruptcy. Moreover, the loss of employment can have a negative effect on the community. Additionally, it can lead to family disputes and even breakups.
Harmful gambling can cause a range of problems including depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts or feelings. It can also damage relationships as compulsive gamblers tend to place their gambling habit above other obligations, such as work or family. This can leave their loved ones feeling angry, betrayed and resentful. It can also lead to other legal issues such as theft and fraud.
Some people become hooked on gambling for coping reasons such as boredom, loneliness, or to escape unpleasant emotions like stress. For instance, they might gamble to relieve feelings of sadness or depression or after a stressful day at work or argument with their spouse. Other common coping strategies include exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
Regardless of the motivation, gambling can result in harmful behaviours such as lying and borrowing money to fund gambling habits. It can also affect a person’s job performance, as they may miss work or be late for meetings. In extreme cases, a person may even steal or sell personal items to fund their gambling habits.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, speak to StepChange for free debt advice. They can also recommend a local therapist who can help them tackle their problem and recover from the harm it’s caused. In the meantime, try to strengthen your own support network and consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12 step recovery programme based on that of Alcoholics Anonymous.