Gambling is a risky activity where people bet something of value on an event that has some degree of chance. The hope is to win a bigger prize than the original investment. This type of gambling can take many forms, from scratchcards to sports betting and even online video games with gambling elements for both adults and children. Regardless of the form, gambling is considered addictive when it causes significant distress or impairment in one’s life. In the United States, most adults and adolescents have placed some sort of bet, but a small subset develop a gambling disorder that is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there is help available, including treatment and support groups.
Whether in the shadowy back rooms of casinos or the twinkly lights of online betting sites, gambling is an addiction that can be very hard to overcome. While it may offer a short-term adrenaline rush and a sense of accomplishment, the reality is that gambling can lead to serious financial problems and strained or broken relationships. Those suffering from a gambling addiction can often find it difficult to admit they have a problem, especially if they have lost money or if the habit has interfered with their work and personal lives.
The main cause of gambling disorder is a combination of cognitive and motivational factors that influence a person’s decision to gamble and the extent to which they do so. These factors include an individual’s perception of the odds of events, the desire to obtain a greater return on a bet than is actually possible, and an unconscious bias toward negative outcomes (e.g., the sunk cost fallacy).
In order to manage your gambling habit, it is important to set money and time limits for yourself in advance. It is also important to keep in mind that gambling is not as socially acceptable as it once was. In the past, it was common to see gamblers wearing hoodies in public and hiding their habits from others. Nowadays, however, it is much easier to place a bet thanks to the availability of casino games on mobile devices, online poker and esports tournaments, as well as legal sports betting in many states.
Developing a strong support network is critical in combating any addiction, and it is particularly important when it comes to gambling. Reach out to friends and family, or consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also seek professional guidance through therapy, which can address the specific issues that led to your gambling addiction and lay the foundation for repairing relationships and rebuilding finances. For those who are unable to access traditional treatment, online therapists can be an effective alternative. They can match you with a vetted and licensed therapist within 48 hours, and provide remote, confidential support anytime, anywhere.