Gambling is a popular pastime, and the World Health Organization estimates that worldwide legal gambling turnover is $10 trillion per year (illegal betting may be much higher). People gamble for many reasons – to socialise, for the adrenaline rush, to escape worries or stress or just to pass the time. But for some people, gambling can become a serious problem. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with gambling, there are ways to help them. There is treatment available, support groups and self-help tips. Family therapy and marriage, career and credit counselling can help repair relationships and finances that have been affected by gambling.
Some people can overcome gambling problems on their own, but it is important to seek help if your gambling is affecting your life or the lives of others. It is also important to get help if you are thinking about suicide or having suicidal thoughts. There is a link between mental health problems and gambling, and it can be harder to control your emotions when you’re having a mental health crisis.
The first step in overcoming gambling is to find new things to do with your money. Having a hobby or spending time with friends is a great way to take your mind off gambling and make it easier to stay away from it. It’s also a good idea to set limits on how long you will gamble and never use money that you need for bills or rent.
Getting to know your gambling triggers is also important. Different people have different risk factors for developing gambling disorder, which is classified as an addictive disorder in the DSM-5. For example, a history of trauma and social inequality are important risk factors in women. Studies of identical twins have shown that genetics contribute to the risk of developing GD as well.
When you gamble, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine that gives you a feel-good sensation, but it is only a temporary high. Over time, the dopamine levels start to reduce and you need more and more gambling to feel the same pleasure. This can lead to harmful behaviors and is not sustainable in the long term.
It is important to find new coping skills to deal with your urges and to find ways of distracting yourself when you’re feeling like gambling. Try to think of other ways you can enjoy yourself without gambling, such as going out to a restaurant or cinema or doing a physical activity. It’s also a good idea not to gamble when you’re depressed or stressed, as this can increase your chances of losing.
If you have a friend or family member with a gambling problem, try to be understanding. It’s difficult to see someone you care about struggle with an addiction, but remember they didn’t choose to become addicted and it is not their fault. Seek help for underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, that can be made worse by compulsive gambling.