Gambling Disorders – What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Gambling?

Gambling is an activity in which something of value (typically money) is placed at risk on an event with an element of chance. Gambling can take many forms, from playing card games such as poker or blackjack with friends in a private setting to betting on sports events like football games or horse races. Other forms of gambling are the use of scratch-off tickets, slot machines, keno, bingo, dice games and casino games. In the past, most gambling was done in casinos located in cities like Las Vegas or Atlantic City but in recent years, online gaming and video games have become popular and accessible. In addition, it has become easier to bet on sports and other events with the development of legalized sports betting.

Negative effects of gambling can be found at the personal, interpersonal and community/societal levels. Personal impacts tend to affect gamblers directly and include invisible or hidden costs, for example, the impact of problem gambling on family members. Interpersonal impacts are those that affect those close to the gambler such as friends, spouses and coworkers. External impacts at the community/societal level are those that affect people who do not gamble, for instance, the economic impact of gambling on a local economy.

Among those most at risk of developing a gambling disorder are younger people, especially men, and those with lower incomes. However, anyone may develop a gambling disorder and it is important to know the signs and symptoms so that it can be addressed early.

Many reasons why a person may be drawn to gambling include boredom, stress or social isolation. Some studies have shown that gambling can be a way to relieve unpleasant feelings and to unwind. It is important to find healthier ways of relieving boredom and stress, such as taking up new hobbies, exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.

Research has also shown that certain factors may make a person more likely to develop a gambling disorder, for instance, genetic predisposition and personality traits such as thrill-seeking and impulsivity. People with a history of drug or alcohol addiction are also at higher risk.

A gambling addiction is not something that can be cured on your own; it will require professional help. Many treatment and recovery centers offer residential or inpatient programs aimed at those suffering from severe gambling problems. In these programs, patients will receive around-the-clock support as they learn how to manage their urges and overcome the underlying issues that are contributing to their gambling addiction. Moreover, they will also be taught how to build healthy relationships and cope with their problems in healthier ways. The treatment and recovery process is not easy and requires commitment, but it can be successful if the gambler is willing to work hard at it. Besides treatment and rehabilitation programs, it is important for gamblers to seek medical assistance if they are experiencing serious symptoms. The sooner they get help, the better their chances of recovering from the gambling addiction.