Gambling is an activity in which people stake something of value, such as money or items, on a random event for the chance to win a prize. While gambling can be fun, it also has serious repercussions and affects self-esteem, relationships, mental health and work performance. In addition, it can lead to a variety of addictions. If left unchecked, problem gambling can also damage family members, friends and communities.
Many people associate gambling with casinos and racetracks, but the truth is that gambling occurs everywhere – in restaurants, gas stations, church halls, on the Internet, at sporting events and even in your home. People gamble when they buy a lottery ticket, bet on a horse or a team in a sports game, place a wager on a casino table, or use the pokies. The risk is the amount of money you’re willing to put up and the prize could be anything from a night out to a multimillion dollar jackpot.
Although it may seem that gambling is a dangerous addiction, most people who gamble do not have a problem. Approximately three to four percent of the population report problems with gambling, and one to two percent experience serious issues. Those with severe problem gambling can have devastating effects on themselves and their families, which often extend beyond the gambler.
The term disordered gambling covers a range of behaviors, from those that place individuals at risk for developing pathological gambling (subclinical) to those that meet diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). There are no FDA-approved medications for treating pathological gambling disorders; however, counseling can help individuals understand gambling behavior and consider options.
While gambling can be fun, it should only be done with money that you can afford to lose. Set a time to stop gambling and stick to it, no matter whether you are winning or losing. It is easy to get lost in the thrill of gambling and lose track of time. It is also important to not mix gambling with alcohol or other drugs. It can be tempting to try and make back your losses, but chasing your losses will only increase your losing streak.
Lastly, it is important to find healthy ways to socialize. It can be hard to cut down on gambling if it is your go-to way to socialize, but there are other activities you can do that will give you the same pleasure without the harmful consequences of gambling. For example, joining a club or taking up a new hobby can be an excellent alternative to gambling. Talking about your gambling with someone who won’t judge you can also be beneficial, and it can help you stay focused on your goal of quitting.