A popular pastime for centuries, gambling involves putting something of value at risk for the chance of winning a prize. But when people start to gamble compulsively, it can have serious consequences. Identifying and treating gambling disorder can help you get your life back on track.
Many factors can contribute to the development of harmful gambling behaviour, including your environment and your community. For example, the type of gambling available in your area, its popularity, and how accessible it is can influence how you think about gambling and whether or not it feels normal to you.
Your personal history can also be a factor. Gambling disorders tend to run in families, and studies of identical twins suggest a genetic link. Additionally, the presence of other mental health conditions like depression or substance abuse can make you more susceptible to problematic gambling behaviour.
If you have a gambling problem, the first step is admitting it to yourself and your loved ones. This can be a difficult step, especially if you’ve lost money and strained or broken relationships as a result of your addiction. But it’s important to realise that you’re not alone. Many other people have overcome this struggle, and they can help you find the strength to stop gambling for good.
Getting help for gambling disorder can involve a range of services, including individual and group therapy, inpatient treatment, and residential programs. But it’s also important to consider your family and social network, which can be a major source of support and strength during recovery. For instance, it can be helpful to seek out activities that don’t involve gambling, such as joining a book club or sports team, taking an education class, or volunteering for a cause. You can also reach out to peers through a peer support program such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.
There are also professional services that can help you cope with your problem gambling, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). With these techniques, a mental health professional can teach you healthy coping strategies to replace the negative and obsessive thoughts and behaviors associated with your gambling disorder.
While it’s common to feel a rush of pleasure when you win at the casino, your brain releases a surge of dopamine even when you lose. This can lead you to seek out gambling as a way of feeling happy, and over time you may develop a dependence on the highs that it gives you. This can also make it hard to recognize when your behaviour is causing harm.