Gambling is an activity in which participants place a wager on the outcome of a game or event. The game or event may be something as simple as betting on a football match or purchasing a scratchcard, or it could be more complex such as a poker tournament or horse race. The outcome is determined by chance, and no one can predict the winner with certainty. Some people find gambling enjoyable, but for others it can have a detrimental effect on their health, relationships, performance at work or school and even get them into trouble with the law.
The first step to recovering from a problem with gambling is acknowledging that you have one. This is a big step and can be especially difficult if you have lost a lot of money or strained or broken relationships as a result of your gambling habit. You can also seek help from friends and family, a therapist, or a support group for gambling addiction such as Gamblers Anonymous. There are also many online resources available that can provide you with advice and information about dealing with a gambling addiction.
There is a growing recognition that some individuals who experience adverse consequences from gambling have psychological issues and are not just irresponsible gamblers. This change in understanding has been reflected or stimulated by the evolving clinical classification of pathological gambling in the various editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The current 10 criteria for diagnosis include damage or disruption, loss of control, and dependence. The term “dependence” in this context refers to an individual’s need to gamble in order to feel exhilarated, and the criterion includes symptoms such as tolerance (the need to wager larger amounts of money in order to achieve a desired level of excitement), withdrawal (restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling), preoccupation with gambling, and chasing losses. The final criterion is the absence of a better explanation for the gambling behavior by other conditions such as manic episode.
In addition to seeking treatment for your problem gambling, it is important to learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. Try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. Using these methods can give you an alternative to gambling when you are feeling down, and they will also be more effective than trying to numb your emotions by drinking or drug use.
When you are tempted to gamble, it is helpful to make sure that you have plenty of cash on hand and that your credit card is out of your reach. You can also postpone the urge to gamble by calling a friend, going for a walk, or attending a meeting of a gambling support group like Gamblers Anonymous. Lastly, it is helpful to have a trusted partner to lean on when you are struggling with your gambling problem.