Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or personal possessions) on an event with an element of chance and the possibility of winning a prize. It can be done on a variety of things including lottery tickets, bingo, cards, slots, fruit machines, horse races, dice, roulett, sports events and other games. Gambling is not a harmless activity and can cause serious problems. It can lead to debt, depression and even suicide. It also can affect family, friends and work. It can also have a negative impact on the economy and public health.
It’s important to remember that the behaviour of someone who has a gambling disorder is rooted in deep-seated, unconscious patterns. In psychoanalytic terms it might be a compulsion that is being driven by unmet needs. These needs may be as simple as ‘feeling like a winner’ or could be related to early traumas that were never fully processed.
People who have low incomes are more likely to develop a gambling disorder as they might have more to gain from a win, says psychologist Shane Kraus. Young people and men are also more susceptible to gambling disorders. It’s important to find healthier ways of relieving boredom and stress, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up a new hobby or practicing relaxation techniques.
For most people with a gambling problem, their addiction stems from a need to feel good about themselves. Gambling releases dopamine in the brain which gives a feeling of pleasure. It might be a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, to socialise, to relieve boredom or to distract themselves from painful events in their lives.
The good news is that there are many different treatment options available for those with a gambling disorder. These include individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy. Individual therapy can be useful for identifying and understanding the underlying psychological issues that are contributing to their problem. Psychodynamic therapy can help them to increase self-awareness and understanding of how past experiences influence their behaviour.
Family and group therapy can be useful for encouraging the person to discuss their gambling problem with others in a safe and supportive environment. It can help them to build a network of support and provide moral support as they recover from their disorder. Family therapy can also help them re-establish healthy communication with their loved ones.
It is not your responsibility to ‘fix’ a loved one who has a gambling problem. However, it’s important to talk about their gambling habits and how they are affecting you. This will help them recognise that they have a problem and will make it easier to seek help for it. In addition, it’s important to make sure you don’t give them money to gamble with. You might also consider taking away their credit cards, having them set up automatic payments and closing their online betting accounts. Moreover, it’s also worth considering seeking help for yourself if you’re worried about a friend or relative’s addiction to gambling.