Gambling involves placing something of value, often money, at risk on an event whose outcome is influenced by chance or luck. This can take the form of a lottery, card games, sports betting, slot machines, instant scratch tickets, races, animal tracks, dice or even the stock market. Gambling can be fun for many people, but it can also lead to serious problems for some. If you feel like your gambling is out of control, seek help from a therapist or support group.
Psychiatrists can offer cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for gambling addiction, which focuses on the beliefs and thoughts that trigger an urge to gamble. It looks at how the bettor thinks about risk and probability, whether they believe certain rituals bring them luck or that they can overcome bad luck by betting more, and how they behave when they are feeling tempted to gamble.
CBT can be useful for people who are trying to quit gambling, especially when they are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety. It can help them develop healthier coping strategies and change their negative thinking patterns that trigger gambling. It can also teach them to recognise their emotions and identify ways of dealing with them, such as expressing them in healthy, constructive ways.
In addition to CBT, psychiatrists can also use a combination of other psychological therapies, such as family therapy and individual psychotherapy, to treat gambling addiction. These can address the underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to it, such as depression or anxiety.
Many people who are addicted to gambling experience severe financial problems, affecting their daily lives and relationships with family and friends. They can even become reliant on others to fund their addiction and replace the money they have lost. Some people have been known to commit criminal activities, such as forgery, fraud or theft, in order to fund their gambling habits. Others have been known to lie to their therapists, family members and colleagues to conceal how much time and money they are spending on gambling.
The decision to stop gambling can be a very difficult one to make, particularly if you have lost a lot of money and damaged your relationships in the process. However, it is possible to break free of this habit and rebuild your life. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, and this can be hard to do – but many others have managed to successfully overcome their addictions and rebuild their lives.
The most important thing is to find a way of managing your gambling and making sure it doesn’t interfere with your life. Try limiting the amount of money you bet, and only gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Avoid borrowing money to gamble and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Speak to a debt charity like StepChange for free, confidential advice. Also, try to socialise in other ways than by visiting casinos or playing online, for example by joining a book club, sports team or volunteering.