Gambling is the staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident. It does not include bona fide business transactions or contracts valid under law, such as purchases at future dates of securities and commodities, and contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.
There are many ways to gamble, from betting on a horse race or football game to buying lottery tickets and scratch-offs. Some forms of gambling are considered more dangerous than others. For example, problem gambling can affect your physical and mental health, as well as your finances, work and personal relationships. It can even lead to homelessness, suicide or homicide.
People who suffer from gambling addiction often try to hide their problems, but there are some warning signs you can watch out for. If someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s important to encourage them to seek help and support.
Problem gambling is a complex issue and requires professional treatment. The good news is that there are now effective treatments available. The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency and severity of gambling episodes by changing the way a person thinks about gambling and the ways they behave. This can be accomplished by teaching coping skills, improving self-esteem and developing positive coping strategies.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that the brain responds to gambling in similar ways as it does to drugs of abuse. This has changed the way psychiatric professionals understand and treat pathological gambling. It has also prompted researchers to develop new tools to identify youth at high risk for the disorder.
Those with an addictive disorder can find relief from some of the most difficult symptoms through therapy and peer support. For example, a person who struggles with gambling can join a Gamblers Anonymous group modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous to find a “sponsor”—a former gambler with experience staying clean—to help them through the recovery process. Other helpful resources can be found at the Responsible Gambling Council.
People who struggle with gambling often have underlying psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression. These issues can be exacerbated by stress and boredom, which may trigger the urge to gamble. It’s important for those who have a loved one with a gambling addiction to find other healthy ways to relieve unpleasant emotions and deal with boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or practicing relaxation techniques. In addition, it’s a good idea to set boundaries around money and close online gambling accounts. In some cases, it may be necessary to take over management of a family’s finances to protect them from the person’s temptations to gamble. To learn more about caring for a loved one with a gambling problem, visit Carer Gateway or call 1800 422 737 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm AEST).