Recognizing and Treating a Gambling Disorder

Whether it’s betting on the next race or the outcome of the lottery, gambling is an activity that most people partake in at some point. While many people enjoy a bit of risk-taking to earn money or even have a chance at a big win, for some people gambling becomes an addiction that interferes with their work and social life. Despite its social acceptability, it is important to recognize and seek treatment for gambling disorder as it can have serious consequences for your health.

The earliest records of gambling are found in the Bible, where the practice was used to raise funds for various purposes. While it has always been a popular pastime, the rise of the Internet has increased the availability of gambling and made it accessible to more people. Today, four in five Americans say they have gambled at some time in their lives. The most common forms of gambling are lotteries and casinos. Lottery winners are chosen in a random drawing and the prize is usually small, but winnings can add up over time. Casinos are commercial establishments that offer gaming opportunities such as keno, blackjack and roulette. In addition to gaming, they often provide food, drinks and entertainment.

For some people, gambling can be a fun and rewarding hobby that is not associated with any problems. However, for others it is a dangerous and harmful addiction. Gambling can lead to financial crisis and even ruin relationships. It is also a source of stress, depression and anxiety. Fortunately, help is available and there are many things you can do to combat your gambling problem.

A person is considered to have a gambling disorder when they meet certain criteria. These criteria are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychological disorders. The latest version of the DSM now lists pathological gambling as an addictive behavior and includes it alongside other disorders such as substance abuse, bulimia and binge-eating disorder.

A gambling disorder can affect anyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Symptoms of gambling disorder include: being preoccupied with thoughts about gambling or thinking about ways to get more money to gamble; spending more than you can afford to lose; lying to family and friends to conceal the extent of your involvement in gambling; chasing your losses; and jeopardizing a relationship, job or education opportunity to gamble. There are many things you can do to overcome your gambling disorder, including therapy, self-help tips and support groups. The first step is admitting you have a problem, which can be difficult for those who are embarrassed about their addiction or have already incurred large amounts of debt and lost relationships as a result of their gambling habits. It’s also helpful to strengthen your support network by making new friends and participating in other activities that don’t involve visiting a casino or gambling online. You could try joining a book club, taking an education class or volunteering in your community.