How to Recognize a Gambling Disorder
Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance, with the hope of winning a prize. It includes all forms of betting, including lotteries, casino gambling, playing bingo, buying scratch-off tickets, and betting on sports events or office pools. People with a gambling disorder may feel an urge to gamble even when they are not in a situation where they can afford it. There are several treatment options for gambling disorders, but it is important to recognize the disorder and get help as soon as possible.
Psychiatric professionals use criteria to identify when someone has a gambling problem. They often refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, which lists gambling disorder alongside other addictive behaviors. A person with a gambling disorder may experience symptoms such as:
Studies show that the brain activity of a compulsive gambler is different from that of non-gambling individuals, indicating that the behavior is biologically rooted. Genetics can also contribute to a person’s tendency toward thrill-seeking and impulsive behavior, which are common characteristics of gambling disorders. Some people may have an underactive reward system, which affects their ability to process rewards and control impulses.
It is estimated that about $10 trillion is wagered annually on global sports and gaming activities. The largest form of gambling is through state-operated or regulated lotteries, which are found in most European countries, a number of South American nations, Australia, and some Asian and African countries. Other types of gambling include horse and dog races, poker, and blackjack.
There are a variety of ways to treat gambling problems, including counseling, medication, and self-help groups. Many people with gambling disorders have co-occurring psychological conditions such as depression, and psychotherapy can help them recognize and cope with these issues. Some people find that making changes in their environment helps them resist the temptation to gamble. This can involve limiting access to credit cards, having someone else manage their money, closing online betting accounts, and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand. Changing your social circle can also be beneficial, as you can surround yourself with people who do not encourage or endorse the gambling habit.
People who are unable to resist the urge to gamble may benefit from joining a peer support group for gamblers. These groups are similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, and they can provide encouragement, advice, and support. Getting plenty of exercise and spending time with friends who do not gamble can also help. Lastly, some research has shown that stopping gambling can help with depression and anxiety.