Gambling involves placing a value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, where the gambler hopes to win something of value. This could be a prize, a cash sum, a new car or a holiday. The most common forms of gambling are lotteries, regulated sports betting and casino games. But scratchcards, betting on office pools and even placing a bet on a football match are also considered gambling. In fact, it is estimated that the world’s annual legal turnover from gambling is more than $10 trillion.
People gamble for a variety of reasons: for social reasons – to make a party more exciting, or to have something to talk about; for financial reasons – to win money and change their lifestyle, or simply because they enjoy thinking about what they would do with a big jackpot; or for entertainment purposes – for the thrill of winning and the feeling of anticipation. However, a small percentage of people develop a problem with gambling to the extent that they find it difficult to control their behaviour. This is called pathological gambling (PG). In the DSM-5, PG is now classified as a behavioral addiction and placed in a new category of disorders along with other addictive substances and behaviors.
Psychiatrists and psychologists can help those struggling with gambling problems. Counselling can address how gambling affects a person and his or her family, as well as helping to deal with underlying mood disorders like depression or anxiety. Family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling can help to repair relationships and finances that have been damaged by gambling.
To treat gambling disorder, it is important to understand the underlying motivations that drive people to gamble. The gambling industry uses a range of techniques to keep people playing and re-gambling, including targeted advertising on TV or on social media, and wall-to-wall sponsorship of football teams. This is not unlike how companies such as Coca-Cola advertise their products, but gambling products are more dangerous because they can cause significant harm.
It is also essential to realise that the odds are stacked against players, and that winning requires more than just luck. In addition to the inherent risk, most gamblers rely on false beliefs about their chances of winning, such as believing that the more they bet, the more likely they are to win. This is a common myth that has led to many people spending more than they can afford to lose and ultimately getting into debt. Changing these faulty beliefs and attitudes is crucial to breaking the gambling cycle. Ultimately, the only way to stop gambling is to remove the temptation and find other ways to have fun. This could mean controlling access to your credit card, letting someone else manage your finances or leaving the gambling site. A better alternative might be to take up a hobby, join a gym or go for a walk. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with a specialist online therapist for advice.