Gambling involves risking something of value (usually money) on an event with some element of randomness and the purpose of winning a prize. It has a long history and many forms. It can be as simple as betting marbles or a collectible game piece like Magic: The Gathering, and can involve wagers on events such as horse races, football accumulators and other sporting events, lottery games, instant scratch cards and bingo. Gambling is a major international commercial activity, with the legal gambling market estimated to be around $335 billion worldwide in 2009.
It’s important to understand that it’s not just about winning or losing. Problem gambling can cause emotional and psychological harm, which can affect relationships with friends and family. It can also impact work and study and lead to financial difficulties. If you have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Counselling can help you think about how gambling is affecting your life and provide support to stop the behaviour. Inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs are available for people who can’t stop gambling without round-the-clock support.
A significant proportion of pathological gamblers have co-occurring mood disorders, particularly depression and anxiety. Some studies show that depressive symptoms often precede a gambling disorder, while others suggest that a gambling disorder may be triggered by depressive symptoms. The relationship between gambling and mood has been linked to other factors such as genetics, personality traits, life events and environment.
Many people with a gambling disorder have difficulty recognizing their problem, and it can be difficult for them to ask for help. They may also be reluctant to admit their problems to their family and friends, or they might feel ashamed that they have a gambling problem. The first step in seeking help is to make an appointment with a doctor or psychologist who has experience in the assessment of gambling disorders.
The most effective treatments for gambling disorder are structured, goal-oriented, and involve a combination of individual and group therapy. Group therapy focuses on helping people learn how to manage their emotions and interact with each other in healthy ways. Individual therapy focuses on the person’s motivation to stop gambling and their personal goals, strengths and challenges. Some treatments also involve pharmacotherapy, which is used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
If you have a loved one with a gambling problem, it’s important that you seek help for yourself as well. Support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and self-help groups for families, such as Gam-Anon, can be a great source of strength and encouragement. You can also seek professional help through online counselling services. These are a convenient and cost-effective way to receive support from the comfort of your own home. You can get matched with a professional, licensed and vetted therapist within less than 48 hours. Alternatively, you can call our free and confidential Gambler’s Helpline on 1800 858 858 or visit the Gambler’s Help Youthline on 1800 262 376 (Australia only). You can also chat online with a Gambling counsellor through our LiveChat service which is available 24/7.