Recognising the Signs of a Gambling Disorder


Gambling is a form of risk taking that involves placing something of value (money, usually) on an event that has an element of chance, and with the hope of winning a larger prize. The term is most commonly associated with betting on sporting events, but gambling can be done on many other things as well, including poker, slots, dice, roulette and lottery tickets. People who engage in this type of behavior may be at risk for developing a gambling disorder.

Whether they bet on football matches, horse races or scratch cards, gambling is an activity that can quickly turn into a harmful addiction. When this happens, it can strain relationships, interfere with work and cause financial disaster. It is therefore important to recognise the signs of a gambling problem and seek help when necessary.

There is a wide range of treatment options available for those suffering from gambling addiction, ranging from peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous to intensive residential or inpatient programmes. Some of these are based on 12-step programs, which encourage participants to find a sponsor who has successfully overcome their gambling problems and who can provide guidance. Others are based on more traditional psychotherapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

The most important step towards overcoming a gambling addiction is acknowledging that there is a problem. However, this can be a difficult step for some, particularly if they have already lost a lot of money or experienced difficulties in their personal life as a result of their gambling. People may also try to hide their gambling from family and friends, lying about how much they spend or even hiding evidence of their gambling activities.

Studies of gambling have generally found that there is a strong association between pathological gambling and mood disorders. Research has also indicated that depression and depressive symptoms are likely to precede the onset of gambling disorder, rather than vice versa.

The most common way that people try to reduce their risk of gambling is by setting money and time limits before they start gambling, and by only spending money they can afford to lose. It is also important not to gamble on credit, and not to borrow money to gamble. In addition, people who struggle with gambling addiction should try to balance their gambling with other social activities and hobbies. They should also learn healthier ways to relieve boredom or unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. Finally, they should avoid gambling when they are feeling down or stressed, as this will usually lead to more losses.