Gambling is risky, and it’s easy for it to spiral out of control. Problem gambling can damage relationships, interfere with work and school performance, and lead to financial disaster. If you’re concerned that you might have a gambling problem, seek help from a professional counselor or peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous. In addition, strengthen your support network and find new ways to connect with people—like taking a class, joining a book club, or volunteering for a good cause. Finally, make a plan to deal with urges to gamble by getting rid of credit cards, having someone else be in charge of your finances, and closing online betting accounts.
While the idea of a gambling addiction might seem far-fetched, many people struggle with it. In fact, researchers have discovered that the brain responds to gambling in much the same way as it does to drugs and alcohol. For example, scientists have seen changes in blood flow and electrical activity in the brains of people playing virtual card games or other computer tasks that mimic casino games. They also have found that some people develop a strong urge to gamble even when they’re not at a casino or playing a game with monetary stakes.
A key part of understanding why some people have a gambling problem is to realize that it’s all about chance. Every time a person puts money down on an event, whether it’s a football match or a scratchcard, they’re gambling. The choice of what to gamble on is matched to the ‘odds’ set by the betting company, which determine how much they could win if they win the event.
The odds aren’t always obvious, especially if you’re buying a scratchcard or a lottery ticket. The odds are written in small print and don’t always appear on the front of the ticket, but you can usually find them in the betting shop or online.
It’s important to understand that gambling is about chance, not skill. Even if you’re a genius at card games or have a natural gift for winning the lotto, gambling is still a risky pastime. It can take tremendous strength and courage to admit that you have a gambling problem, especially if it’s cost you a lot of money or strained your relationships. But it’s worth remembering that many others have reclaimed their lives from gambling addiction and are living proof that you can overcome the problem.
Fortunately, treatment options for gambling disorder are available and successful. Many people with gambling disorders respond well to psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches a person to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. Other types of therapy, such as psychodynamic therapy and group therapy, can help a person understand how unconscious processes might influence their behavior. Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling can help a person rebuild their relationships and finances. Finally, medication is an option for some people with gambling disorders. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Ativan, can ease the symptoms of addiction by blocking the action of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.