The Warning Signs of Gambling Problems

Gambling involves risking something of value on an event whose outcome is determined by chance in the hope of winning something of greater value. It is a common pastime and has been found in every culture throughout history. People gamble in casinos, racetracks, video games and on the Internet. Some people are able to control their gambling habits, but others do not and it can become an addiction.

The most common type of gambling is lotteries. In the United States, there are state-licensed lotteries and a wide variety of privately run ones. People also place wagers on sports and other events in organized pools. The amount of money legally wagered on these events is estimated at $10 trillion. People also make bets on horse races and dog or other animal contests, although these are less common than other types of gambling.

Gambling is considered an addictive behavior because it leads to poor decisions and financial difficulties for some people. It is important to recognize and understand the warning signs of gambling problems in order to seek help. Symptoms include:

Often, the behavior of someone who has a problem with gambling is not recognized by family members or friends. People who gamble often hide their spending and lie to others about how much time they spend gambling or about the amount of money they have lost. They may even steal or embezzle to fund their gambling. In addition, some gamblers have jeopardized or lost significant relationships, jobs or educational or career opportunities as a result of their gambling.

In addition to the direct consequences of gambling, it can cause serious psychological and emotional distress. It can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders and interfere with one’s ability to think clearly. It can also be associated with substance use and abuse.

Pathological gamblers are at a high risk of suicide and of developing other mental health disorders. These individuals need to receive treatment for their gambling problem. They should be placed on a monitored or assisted program until they are no longer at risk of becoming pathological gamblers.

Some people develop gambling problems because of genetics, environment and other factors. They are often exposed to gambling in media, such as television shows and movies, or socialized into it at a young age. Men are more likely to become pathological gamblers than women, but both sexes can struggle with this habit. It is also more common for older adults to develop a gambling problem than younger adults. Psychiatrists can provide support, assistance and counselling to those struggling with gambling. This can be in the form of individual or group therapy, and can include marriage, family and credit counseling. In addition, a variety of community-based organizations provide assistance to those affected by gambling. Some offer support groups and a national hotline. Others are specifically focused on assisting problem gamblers and their families. They can offer information and referrals to local treatment programs and other services.