Gambling Addiction

Jun 6, 2024 news

Gambling is an activity where people stake something of value (like money) on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. The activity takes place in many places, including casinos and racetracks, but also at home, on the Internet and even in video poker machines and scratch-off tickets. There are four main reasons why people gamble: for social, financial, entertainment and speculative reasons.

For some people gambling can be a fun and enjoyable pastime, but for others it can cause harm to their finances, health, relationships, work or study performance and lead to criminal activity. Problem gambling affects 2.5 million U.S adults and can be associated with alcohol misuse, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Problem gambling can also contribute to family breakdown, relationship conflict and work-related stress.

Problem gamblers can often become secretive about their activities and lie to friends and family members. They may also attempt to evade detection by hiding money or using credit cards or other sources of finance. Problem gamblers can also develop a compulsive need to play and increase their bets in an attempt to win back lost money.

Despite the widespread availability of gambling, it is not widely understood why some people have a tendency to gamble beyond their means and struggle to stop. There is also an absence of scientifically tested interventions for people with gambling problems.

Gambling addiction is complex and influenced by both biological factors and environmental influences. People who are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity, or those who have an underactive reward system in the brain, may be more susceptible to developing gambling disorders. Other risk factors for gambling disorder include personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

People who struggle with gambling tend to hide their problems, which can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. They can also have difficulty admitting that they are having a problem, which makes it difficult to seek help. Cultural norms can also influence attitudes towards gambling and make it more difficult to recognise a problem, especially in communities that view gambling as a socially acceptable pastime. Framing the issue as a health concern rather than a lifestyle choice can reduce resistance and open the door to help. Offering support and focusing on the positives in their life can help people with problem gambling to take control of their situation. This may include identifying their gambling triggers, finding healthy distractions and practicing relaxation exercises for impulse control. In some cases, counselling can be helpful in breaking the cycle of addiction and reducing gambling behaviours. In severe cases, it may be necessary to consider hospitalisation or residential rehabilitation. However, these options should be offered only as a last resort. The first priority is to identify any other underlying issues that are contributing to the gambling behaviour, such as substance use disorder or untreated mental illness. This should be done before considering any form of treatment for gambling disorder.