Food and Culture

Dealing With Gambling Problems

Gambling involves risking something of value (such as money or property) on an event that is determined at least partly by chance, with the intent to win something else of value. It can take many forms, from buying lottery tickets and playing bingo to placing bets on sports games or the outcome of a political election. In most countries, gambling is regulated by law.

Some people have a very serious problem with gambling that can lead to addiction. For these individuals, their gambling affects all aspects of their life and requires professional help. Problem gambling can result in financial hardship, loss of employment, family conflicts and even suicide. Several different treatments for gambling disorder have been developed to help people overcome their dependence on gambling. These treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Some people also benefit from group support programs like Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Many people gamble to relieve boredom or stress or as a way to socialize. They may feel they have a “natural talent” for gambling and try to use it to make more money or improve their lives. Others become compelled to gamble for other reasons, such as the desire to escape from reality or feelings of depression or anxiety. They may lie to friends and family or hide their gambling habits from them.

Whether or not people are addicted to gambling, it is a common activity in most societies. There is evidence of gambling in Stone Age cultures, among the Bushmen of South Africa and the Australian Aborigines, as well as in ancient Egypt and in the Roman Empire. In modern times, people gamble in casinos, racetracks, online and by telephone. Some people earn a living from gambling by playing poker, blackjack or other card games. Others make money by investing in securities and other assets.

Although the majority of people who gamble do not have a problem, studies indicate that about 2.5 million U.S. adults (1%) meet the criteria for a severe gambling disorder in a given year. An additional 5-8 million people experience moderate problems with gambling. This is in addition to those who suffer from mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, which can cause or be made worse by compulsive gambling.

The first step in dealing with a gambling problem is admitting that there is a problem. It can be difficult to admit this to yourself and to others, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money or strained relationships as a result of your gambling. It is also important to find healthy ways of coping with unpleasant emotions and relieving boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

If you are a family member of someone who has a gambling problem, it is important to set boundaries in managing money and credit. It is also helpful to seek support from other families who have dealt with this issue. It can be very lonely coping with a loved one’s gambling disorder, and it is easy to feel isolated or to believe that your situation is unique.