Gambling is risking something of value, usually money, in a game based on chance. The goal is to win money or something else of value, such as a prize or recognition. The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to ancient China, when tiles were found that appeared to be a rudimentary form of a lottery-type game. Today, gamblers can play games in casinos, on their mobile phones and at home, as well as place bets through televised sports events and online. In addition to the excitement of winning, gambling can also trigger unpleasant emotions like anxiety and depression. Some people become so addicted to gambling that they can’t control their spending and end up in financial trouble. This type of problem is known as pathological gambling, and it can lead to other problems, such as drug or alcohol use and depression.
The psychiatric community used to largely consider gambling a compulsion rather than an addiction, but in 2000, the American Psychiatric Association moved it into the category of impulse-control disorders, along with other conditions such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). Its inclusion is seen as a major shift from traditional views of the condition and has already changed how psychiatrists treat people who can’t control their spending.
Many people who develop gambling problems are at high risk for developing a disorder because of their social and economic circumstances. The most vulnerable groups include people with low incomes, who have more to lose than they can afford if they don’t stop gambling, and young people. People who have experienced mental illness, especially mood disorders like depression or anxiety, are also more likely to be prone to problem gambling.
People who have difficulty regulating their gambling spend may benefit from counseling, which can help them understand their problem and learn coping skills. Family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling can help them work through specific issues that are contributing to their gambling habits. In some cases, medication may be helpful to reduce cravings for gambling, although there are currently no FDA-approved medications specifically designed to treat problematic gambling.
One of the best ways to manage your gambling is to set a budget. This can be a simple as deciding to only spend a certain amount each time you gamble, and if you go through that amount then it’s time to stop. This will prevent you from spending more than you can afford to lose, and it will help you to avoid the temptation of “chasing your losses.” Another good tip is to only gamble with disposable income and not money that is needed to pay bills or rent. This way, you can always come back to reality if you lose. It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of gambling, so it’s a good idea to have an alarm on your phone to remind you when you’re done. Otherwise, you could end up at the casino for hours without realizing it.