Gambling is a love it or hate it activity that divides people, especially governments. Some want it to be banned completely while others believe that as long as the activity is regulated and controlled, gambling can boost the economy and provide employment opportunities. But, in reality, whether it’s a seedy backroom poker game or a large casino, gambling is going to take place with or without the law. So, may as well make it as safe as possible and encourage a responsible attitude towards the activity.
Humans are biologically wired to seek rewards. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, eating a good meal or winning money, our bodies release the feel-good chemical dopamine when we engage in these healthy behaviors. However, gambling has the potential to derail these positive feelings. By triggering dopamine, gambling can lead to addiction. When someone gambles, they are putting something of value on a random event with the hope of winning more money or something else of value. Although many people are able to gamble responsibly, some people develop a problem and become hooked. Identifying a gambling disorder can be difficult because the symptoms are similar to those of other mental health conditions. It is important to understand what a gambling disorder is and know the warning signs so that you can get help if necessary.
The main symptoms of a gambling disorder are: (1) preoccupation with gambling, (2) loss of control over gambling activities, and (3) attempting to recover from a gambling loss by increasing one’s involvement in the activity (i.e., chasing losses). Symptoms of gambling disorders can be difficult to recognise in yourself or in a loved one. They can include: (1) downplaying or denying the severity of the problem; (2) lying to family members, therapists, or employers to conceal gambling activities; and (3) relying on illegal means, such as forgery, theft, embezzlement, or fraud, in order to fund gambling activities.
In addition to recognizing the signs and symptoms of a gambling disorder, it is important to have a support system in place. This can include family members, friends, and a therapist. A therapist can help you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that are contributing to your gambling behavior.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications to treat gambling disorders. Therefore, treatment is primarily psychotherapy. Several types of psychotherapy can be used to address problematic gambling behaviors, including individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Inpatient and residential treatment programs are also available for those with severe gambling problems. In these programs, you will be given round-the-clock care and intensive therapy to break the cycle of addiction. This type of treatment is highly effective in helping individuals to overcome their addictive behaviors. A therapist can also help you find healthier activities to replace gambling in your life, set money and time limits for gambling, and establish healthy coping skills.