How to Deal With a Gambling Problem

A form of entertainment and leisure, gambling involves betting on the outcome of a game or event. It can involve activities such as slot machines, poker, roulette, blackjack, horse racing or sports betting. Some people engage in frequent and compulsive gambling while others only gamble on rare occasions or a small amount. People with an addiction to gambling can experience negative consequences in their personal, family and professional life. They often spend more money than they can afford to lose, which can lead to financial crisis. They may also lie to loved ones, become reliant on other sources of money to fund their gambling, or continue gambling even when it has a negative impact on their job or health.

Gambling can trigger a range of mental and emotional issues including depression, anxiety, feelings of guilt and shame and low self-esteem. It can also increase feelings of powerlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. People who suffer from a coexisting mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are more vulnerable to problematic gambling behaviours. Vulnerability increases with age, with up to 5% of adolescents and young adults who gamble developing a gambling disorder. People with lower incomes are also more susceptible because they have more to gain with a large win and less access to resources.

People with a gambling problem are often influenced by their environment and by social and family pressure to gamble. They are also influenced by the rewards they receive from gambling, which can be a powerful motivation to continue to gamble. When people gamble, their brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes them feel excited. This is why many people find it difficult to stop gambling once they start.

In addition to avoiding triggers, people with gambling problems can work on changing their negative thought patterns, such as the illusion of control or the gambler’s fallacy. They can do this by learning to challenge their irrational beliefs and by practicing behavioural change strategies.

They can also strengthen their support network by reaching out to friends who do not gamble or by joining community groups such as book clubs, sports teams, or volunteering organizations. They can also try new hobbies that do not involve gambling, such as yoga, painting, dance or cooking. If they do need to be around other people who gamble, they can make an effort to have a non-gambling conversation and set boundaries such as agreeing to limit their time with them. They can also call Gambler’s Help together for advice and support. If the person has a serious gambling disorder, they should seek professional treatment for help. A therapist can offer treatment through a variety of approaches, such as behavior therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). They may also be prescribed medications to manage their symptoms. Often, treatment is combined with peer support and family therapy. This is because family members can be instrumental in helping their loved ones to make positive changes.