Help For Gambling Disorders

Most people who have ever gambled do so for fun and entertainment. But for some, gambling becomes an addiction that leads to serious financial and health problems. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a substantial subset of people who develop problem gambling go on to have a diagnosable gambling disorder. Fortunately, help is available.

Gambling is considered an addictive behaviour because it involves a combination of three elements: consideration, risk and reward. Consideration refers to the amount of money or value placed on an event that is unlikely to occur, while risk refers to the chance of losing something of value and reward refers to a potential positive outcome. There are many different types of gambling including lotteries, casino games and sports betting. In addition to the obvious dangers of gambling, research suggests that people with a tendency towards addiction also are more likely to be exposed to social and environmental factors that may contribute to their gambling behaviour, including:

For example, some people might have family members who suffer from gambling problems, or they might be in a social network where gambling is common. Others might be influenced by advertising or peer pressure to gamble. And still others might find that gambling offers a way to escape their problems or anxieties.

While most studies on gambling have focused on economic costs and benefits, there has been less focus on social impacts. This is a concern because most of the negative impacts from gambling cannot be quantified in monetary terms. One method to examine these invisible costs is through the use of disability weights, or Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) Weights, which are used to measure the burden that a condition has on an individual’s life.

Psychiatrists who treat gambling disorders are using a new understanding of the brain to help patients break free from the addiction. For the first time, doctors believe they have discovered how the brain changes in those who are addicted to gambling and why it is so hard for them to stop. The discovery may lead to better treatments and even cures for problem gambling.

If you think your gambling is getting out of control, try talking about it with somebody who won’t judge you, such as a friend or a professional counsellor. Reduce financial risks by not carrying credit cards and avoiding gambling venues. If possible, switch to a different recreational activity that doesn’t involve the use of money. Find a hobby or a passion to replace the excitement you get from gambling. If you can’t give up gambling altogether, set short-term and long-term goals to keep your behaviour under control. And don’t hide your gambling activities from friends or family – they may be worried about you too. They will be more supportive if they know you’re trying to change your habits. For more information, see www.gamblinghelpline.org.uk.