How to Recognise and Treat a Gambling Disorder


Gambling is a form of entertainment where you risk something of value (money, property or other assets) to predict the outcome of an event involving chance. The goal is to win a prize. Whether it’s betting on a horse race or playing online casino games, gambling can feel exciting and rewarding. However, when it becomes an addiction, gambling can cause financial and psychological harm. In addition, it can interfere with healthy relationships and contribute to other mental health problems such as anxiety.

The American Psychiatric Association classifies gambling disorder as a mental health condition, and it can be just as dangerous and addictive as other substances like alcohol and drugs. However, many people who have a gambling problem don’t recognize or admit it. If left untreated, pathological gambling can have devastating consequences for a person’s family, finances, work and education.

A common reason why people gamble is to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, such as boredom, stress, loneliness or regret. But while gambling can provide short-term pleasure, it’s important to find healthier ways to manage negative emotions. Instead of turning to gambling, try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or learning relaxation techniques.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, talk to your doctor or contact an NHS helpline. There are also a variety of organisations that offer support for people with gambling problems, including self-help groups and specialist treatment centres.

Many people who have a gambling disorder experience shame and guilt about their behaviour. They may even lie to their family and friends about how much they gamble or try to hide their gambling habits from them. This can lead to strained relationships and even financial ruin.

Biologically, human beings are wired to seek rewards. When we interact with other people, eat a nutritious meal or play a game of skill, our brains produce dopamine, which makes us feel happy. But some people’s reward systems become dysregulated by a combination of genetic predisposition, environmental factors and coexisting mental health conditions. People with a gambling disorder are often more impulsive, and they may have an underactive brain reward system. This can affect their ability to regulate impulses and control their actions.

Cultural influences can make it difficult for people to recognise and treat a gambling disorder. For example, some cultures consider gambling to be a social norm and don’t view it as harmful or dangerous. Some people may also be reluctant to seek help if they think their gambling is causing cultural harm because it goes against their values or community expectations. Psychological therapy can help people with gambling disorders. For example, psychodynamic therapy can help a person explore their unconscious thoughts and feelings about their gambling, and group therapy can be an excellent source of moral support. Other interventions include a range of financial counselling services and peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous.

By adminssk
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