How to Prevent a Gambling Problem
Gambling is the act of betting something of value on a random event with the hope of winning a prize. It can be done in many forms, including lotteries, horse racing, casino games, video poker and online gaming. While some people gamble for fun, others have a problem and become addicted to gambling. A gambling addiction can strain relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial ruin. For this reason, it is important to seek treatment for a gambling disorder.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. PG is associated with negative psychological and behavioral consequences, including an inability to control gambling, difficulties in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, legal problems, and mood disorders. Several different diagnostic criteria have been used to diagnose PG. Some of these include a desire to win, an inability to resist temptation, a preoccupation with gambling, and a distorted perception of the risk/reward ratio. In addition, a recurrent pattern of impulsive behavior, such as lying to family members or therapists, is often present in PG patients.
Although the etiology of PG is not completely understood, it appears to be related to genetic factors and a history of depression and/or substance use. In addition, a recurrent history of trauma and stress in early childhood can contribute to the development of a gambling problem. Lastly, a family history of gambling disorder may increase the likelihood of developing a gambling problem.
While a recurrent desire to win may be the primary cause of PG, other factors, such as social and cultural factors, also appear to be involved. For example, a culture that promotes gambling as a source of entertainment may contribute to its occurrence. In addition, a person’s perception of the risk/reward ratio in gambling and his or her ability to distinguish between real and imaginary risks are also important predictors of a potential gambling problem.
The most important factor in preventing a gambling problem is to set limits on money spent and time spent gambling. It is recommended to gamble only with money that can be easily replaced if lost, and to keep gambling away from other activities that require a significant amount of time and attention. In addition, it is important to find healthier ways of relieving unpleasant emotions, such as by exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.
Those who have a gambling disorder can benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, the underlying beliefs that lead to problematic gambling behaviors are identified and challenged. Specifically, the faulty thinking that leads to the gambling behavior is targeted and challenged through exposure exercises. In addition, new skills are taught to replace the irrational, self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are characteristic of a gambling disorder. CBT for a gambling disorder is considered to be effective, and the results of clinical trials indicate that it is an important treatment option.