Gambling is the wagering of something of value, typically money, on an event with a random outcome. The prize may range from a small amount of money to a major life-altering jackpot. Gambling can be done in casinos, private settings, and online. Some types of gambling are legal and others are not. Many people gamble responsibly, while some struggle with a gambling addiction. The most important step in overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that there is a problem. This can be difficult, especially if the problem has caused financial loss and strained or broken relationships.
There are four main reasons why people gamble. They may do it for social reasons, to win money, to get an adrenaline rush, or because they enjoy thinking about what they would do with a big jackpot. Despite these motives, gambling can become addictive and cause significant negative health and family consequences. When a person is gambling compulsively, it is known as pathological gambling (gambling addiction or disordered gambling). It is a mental illness that causes serious harm to the individual and their loved ones.
Symptoms of pathological gambling include: (1) an inability to control impulses; (2) lying to family members, therapists, or other trusted adults about the extent of their gambling; (3) spending more and more time gambling; (4) continuing to gamble despite repeated losses; (5) committing illegal acts such as forgery, embezzlement, or theft to fund gambling; (6) being unable to stop gambling even when facing severe financial or emotional problems; (7) relying on others to help them pay for gambling-related expenses; and (8) feeling depressed, anxious, or guilty when they don’t gamble.
The most effective way to treat a gambling addiction is to seek professional help. A therapist can provide counseling and teach strategies for managing urges. In some cases, medication is also used to help reduce the symptoms of an addiction. It is important to find a therapist who specializes in gambling addiction and is experienced working with this population.
It can be very hard to cope with a family member’s gambling addiction. It can feel like you’re alone and that you’re the only one who has a problem. Seeking support can help you realize that many families have dealt with this issue and overcome it. You can also set boundaries and put in place safeguards to protect your own finances and credit. Consider joining a support group for family members of problem gamblers or a peer-to-peer recovery program such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.