Gambling is wagering something of value (usually money) on an event involving chance, such as a game of cards or a horse race. It is a popular pastime and can provide enjoyment as well as a financial reward if you win. However, it can become harmful if you do not control your spending or if you have other mental health problems.
Many people think gambling is just about winning money, but there are other reasons to gamble. It can be a fun way to socialize with friends, it can relieve stress and it may even offer feelings of euphoria. Some people also use gambling to escape from their daily problems or as a way to relieve boredom.
In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder, a broad category that included kleptomania (stealing), pyromania (burning) and trichotillomania (hair pulling). But this year, in a decision that has been widely praised, the American Psychiatric Association moved it into the addictions chapter of its diagnostic manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorder, psychotherapy can help. Psychotherapy is a general term for a variety of treatment techniques that involve talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. Psychotherapy can help you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors that lead to problem gambling.
It can be difficult to know when your gambling is out of control. Symptoms may include lying about how much you spend or hiding evidence of your gambling activity. There is also a strong link between harmful gambling and other mental health issues, such as depression. People with depression are more likely to turn to gambling as a way of self-soothing or to try and earn money.
Changing your behavior to help you control your urges to gamble is a good idea. Start by limiting how much you can spend and set time limits for yourself. Never gamble with money that you need for bills or to live on. And be sure to balance gambling with other activities, such as hobbies and spending time with family or friends.
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a gambling problem, it is important to get help. Reach out to your family doctor or a counselor who specializes in treating substance abuse and gambling disorders. You can also ask your family members for support and consider joining a gambling-abuse support group. Don’t hesitate to call a hotline if you need help. They are staffed by trained professionals who can connect you with resources in your area. The helpline number is 1-800-522-4237. You can also find a list of support groups on the Internet. There are also national and international organizations that can help you locate a local support group. Many of these groups specialize in helping people with problem gambling and their families.