Gambling involves placing something of value at risk on an event whose outcome is uncertain, with the hope of winning something else of value. A person may gamble for recreational, social, or financial reasons. People who are addicted to gambling engage in compulsive behaviors, which cause negative consequences that often include financial loss, addiction-related health problems, family problems, and even legal issues.
In addition, gambling is often associated with a variety of psychological disorders, including anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, school, or home. Gambling can also affect a person’s physical health, such as by increasing blood pressure and causing high cholesterol. It can also lead to weight gain and sleep problems.
In many cases, the underlying causes of a person’s gambling problem must be addressed in order to break free from the habit. This can be done through psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches skills to change unhealthy thinking patterns. Other forms of psychotherapy can include family and group therapy, as well as psychodynamic therapy, which looks at how unconscious processes influence behavior. Another option is to seek out peer support, such as through a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Peer groups can provide encouragement and help with relapse prevention. People who are struggling with gambling should also learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as by exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques.