Gambling involves placing something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome determined at least partly by chance. It is a popular pastime and is legal in many countries. The total amount of money wagered on sports and other events is estimated at more than $10 trillion per year (illegal gambling may be even higher). While most people who gamble do so without problems, a small percentage develop a gambling disorder, a condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that causes significant distress or impairment. The disorder can begin in adolescence or adulthood and is more common among men and those with lower socioeconomic status.
A gambling addiction is complex, but it is possible to break the cycle. It is important to seek treatment and build a strong support network. Several types of psychotherapy are available to help people change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors related to gambling. These treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and family therapy. Some studies use longitudinal designs to better identify and understand the risk factors for problem gambling.
It is also essential to avoid activities that can trigger an urge to gamble, such as drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs. Instead, find healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and manage boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble or practicing relaxation techniques. Financial problems can also be a trigger for gambling, so it is important to address any debt issues. Speak to a StepChange debt adviser for free, confidential advice.