Gambling Disorders

Gambling is any activity that involves wagering something of value on an event that has a significant element of chance or skill. Whether in a casino, at a horse race or by purchasing lottery tickets, gambling involves risking something of value with the hope that you will win. Gambling can be done with money, property, credit cards or even collectible game pieces (such as marbles and Magic: The Gathering).

In the United States, there are many different types of gambling, including casinos, lotteries, and poker and bingo games. Casino gambling can be an exciting and rewarding experience when played in moderation. It requires strategic thinking and quick decisions, which stimulate the brain. Players can also learn and practice techniques that improve their chances of winning, boosting self-esteem and providing a sense of accomplishment.

However, gambling can be a dangerous and addictive behavior that can cause serious problems in one’s personal life, work performance and relationships. It can also affect one’s health, and lead to serious debt and homelessness. People who have problem gambling often try to hide their behavior, lying about how much they gamble and repressing feelings of shame and guilt. Some even use alcohol or other drugs to cover up their symptoms. Those with gambling disorders are at high risk for developing other mental health disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.

A person who has a gambling disorder may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

Frequently preoccupied with thoughts about gambling, (e.g., reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, finding ways to get money with which to gamble). Frequently gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed). Often returns to gambling after losing money in an attempt to “chase” losses. Relies on others to provide funds to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Gambling can cause harmful effects on a person’s family and society. Some of these impacts can be structural and recur over time. For example, a gambler’s debt can escalate to bankruptcy and homelessness. Other impacts are more personal and interpersonal in nature. These can include strained or broken relationships, family conflict and financial strain.

If you think you have a gambling problem, it is important to seek treatment and support. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, and consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also enroll in a rehabilitation program, which can help you break the gambling habit and recover from the related problems. You can also seek therapy, such as marriage or family counseling, or career or credit counselling to address the issues that triggered your addiction. Physical activities, such as walking or exercising, can also help to reduce your urges to gamble. Moreover, spending time with friends who do not gamble can be helpful, as can taking part in other recreational activities or hobbies. Finally, avoiding alcohol and other drugs can help you to avoid gambling.

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