Gambling involves wagering something of value, usually money, on an uncertain outcome based on chance. It differs from games of skill in which the bettor uses knowledge or skill to improve the chances of winning, such as poker and horse racing. Although gambling may appear to be random, some people are susceptible to developing a pathological habit that leads to adverse consequences. The understanding of gambling disorders has undergone a profound change in recent years, similar to the changes in understanding of alcoholism and alcohol addiction. It is now recognised that individuals who experience adverse outcomes from gambling are not just unlucky, but have a psychological problem.
The earliest known evidence of gambling comes from ancient China, where tiles were found that appeared to be used in a rudimentary lottery-type game. Since then, gambling has expanded to include online gaming, sports betting, and even video games with gamble elements. Although most adults and adolescents who gamble do so without problems, a small proportion develop a gambling disorder — defined in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent, recurrent pattern of gambling behaviour that causes significant distress or impairment.
It is estimated that up to 5% of adolescents and young adults who begin gambling develop a gambling disorder. Vulnerability to a gambling disorder is higher among people who live below the poverty line, as well as men and those who are older than 18 years of age. Those with a history of mood disorders such as depression, stress, or anxiety are also at increased risk for developing a gambling disorder.
If you’re struggling with a gambling problem, there are many ways to get help. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or strained your relationships. However, there are many people who have successfully overcome gambling problems and rebuilt their lives.
The best way to reduce the risk of gambling addiction is to set limits for yourself. Start with a fixed amount of money you are willing to lose and stick to it. This will help you focus on the enjoyment of the game and not the financial aspect. It is also important to set a time limit for your gambling sessions. It’s easy to lose track of time while gambling, and casinos around the world are often free of clocks and windows, making it even more tempting to stay for hours at a time.
It is also a good idea to strengthen your support network by finding new activities that you can enjoy with friends or family. You can also join a gambling-related peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Lastly, you can seek out professional help from a psychologist or psychotherapist who specialises in gambling addiction. Getting help early on can prevent the situation from deteriorating further and avoid more serious complications in the future.