Recognising the Symptoms of a Gambling Problem

Gambling is an activity where you risk money or anything of value in the hope of winning a prize. It can be done at casinos, on the internet, or even at home by buying a lottery ticket. The outcome is usually determined by chance, but skill can also play a part – for example, knowledge of card games can help you improve your chances of winning.

People gamble for different reasons, including to relieve boredom, escape unpleasant emotions, and socialize with friends. But if gambling becomes out of control, it can have negative impacts on your life. You may find yourself lying to family and friends, spending more than you can afford to lose or borrowing money to fund your gambling. This can put your health, career and relationships at risk.

Psychiatry experts agree that gambling disorder is not as common as alcohol or drug addiction, but it can still cause severe problems for those affected. In some cases, it can lead to serious mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. It is also associated with a range of physical health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

It is important to recognise the symptoms of a gambling problem and get treatment for it as soon as possible. You should seek professional help if you have any of the following symptoms:

If you suspect someone close to you has a gambling problem, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional for advice. Therapy can help you understand your own gambling behaviour and learn new skills to overcome it. There are a number of therapies available, such as psychodynamic therapy, which looks at unconscious processes, and group therapy, in which you meet with others to describe and discuss your problems together.

Another option is to join a support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. This is a 12-step program modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous and can give you valuable guidance and support in your struggle to quit gambling.

Many people with gambling disorders have coexisting mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or personality disorders. These can contribute to their addictive behaviors by influencing the way your brain responds to rewards. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder, you might feel a rush of pleasure when you win a bet, while a depressive disorder can make you feel low and anxious about losing.