Whether you’re buying a lottery ticket, betting on sports events, or playing the pokies (Aussie slot machines), gambling involves risking something of value for the chance to win money or goods. It can be fun, but it can also be addictive and lead to financial or personal problems for some people. If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, counseling can help.
Gambling has been around for thousands of years. Archaeological finds show that dice-like objects have been used to play a rudimentary form of gambling as early as 2,300 B.C. in ancient China. Today, there are more ways to gamble than ever before. Many states have legalized casino-style gambling and online gambling has become a common activity for some people.
Although some forms of gambling are considered legal in most countries, it is still illegal to wager large sums of money on non-sporting events or activities. These laws are often based on the belief that gambling promotes an environment where criminal activity is more likely, and that it creates a dependency on the gamer’s winnings for financial stability. In addition to gambling laws, the psychiatric community has taken steps to treat gambling disorder. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), pathological gambling is now classified as an impulse-control disorder, similar to other impulsive disorders like kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).
Researchers have explored several approaches to treating gambling disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychosocial interventions, but evidence of their effectiveness is limited by differences in theoretical assumptions about the etiology of the condition. In particular, the use of eclectic theoretic concepts in treatment approaches may explain why research on these treatments has yielded varying degrees of success.
Counseling can help you understand your urges and how they influence your behavior, as well as provide strategies for overcoming them. You can also find support through peer groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and has helped many people recover from problem gambling. You can also try finding other ways to relieve boredom or self-soothe unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
If you’re worried that you might have a gambling disorder, it’s important to seek help immediately. If you’re concerned about someone else’s problem gambling, reach out for support and encourage them to get help. Many communities have support groups for families affected by gambling disorder, and some have national helplines. If you can’t afford to seek professional help, consider asking your doctor for a referral to a free or low-cost gambling disorder support group in your area. Also, contact your insurance company for coverage information. In the meantime, try to keep your gambling to a minimum and only gamble with what you can afford to lose. You should also avoid chasing losses; this will only cause you more financial harm in the long run. If you have trouble staying in control, you can seek help for gambling addiction in an outpatient program or residential treatment facility.