How to Cope With a Gambling Problem

Gambling can be an enjoyable pastime, but it can become problematic. Problem gambling can lead to significant financial loss as well as affect physical health, work/study performance and relationships; furthermore it may lead to debt, mental illness and homelessness – making admitting their addiction an uphill struggle for some but help is available!

Gambling occurs anywhere that people wager something of value – usually money or items – on an event with uncertain outcomes. This activity can take place at casinos, racetracks and other gaming venues as well as bars, churches, gas stations and sporting events; it may even take place online. In addition, “gambling” may refer to non-money games of chance that use skill such as chess or role playing that do not use money as bets.

People gamble for various reasons, from entertainment and hedonic pursuits to coping and utilitarian needs. Professional gamblers use their skill set to win large sums, while recreational gambling provides social outlets for friends or colleagues, participating in sports betting pools or buying lottery tickets together; others gamble as a form of stress relief or to escape boredom or depression.

Gambling poses both financial risks and an inherent irrationality that can create distorted self-worth and alter values, with genetics, environment and credit availability all having an influence.

Psychological effects of gambling are attributable to dopamine release from the brain, which is associated with pleasure and reward. The release is particularly noticeable among those with higher levels of DARPAT gene which produces dopamine; other triggers for dopamine production could include anticipation of winning, social aspects (such as being around other people while gambling), perceived risks and perceived odds against losing.

No matter the severity of gambling addiction, having a solid support network in place is essential for recovery. This may include family and friends, professional help such as psychotherapy sessions with an addiction specialist and groups such as Gamblers Anonymous which follow the 12-step model from Alcoholics Anonymous can all play an integral part.

Coping with gambling habits of loved ones can be extremely trying, particularly if they become out-of-control. Understanding its underlying mechanisms may help ease some of the challenges you encounter – like their unwillingness to talk about it or requests for “just this once”. If your loved one is suffering from an addiction to gambling, do not hesitate to seek professional assistance – many families have had similar experiences themselves and we offer matching therapists within 48 hours through our online form – we are here for you.