Whether it’s betting on a football game or the next big lottery jackpot, gambling is one of the most common activities in our societies. It’s estimated that the total amount of money legally wagered each year is more than $10 trillion (illegal wagering is likely much higher). But for some, gambling can be a dangerous addiction. It can also negatively impact your mental health. If you’re struggling with gambling addiction, there are ways to get help and stop the cycle. This article mentions suicide or suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety. Please read with care.

In the past, psychiatry viewed pathological gambling as more of an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania or trichotillomania, rather than a true addiction. But a new understanding of the biology behind addiction has changed that. In a landmark decision, the APA moved pathological gambling into the Addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.

It’s easy to think of gambling as a fun activity, like going to the movies or a night out. But many people gamble because they feel a rush from winning, or they are trying to escape their worries and stress. And for some, it’s a way to socialise with friends and even boost their self-esteem. It can be a vicious circle, but there are ways to break out of it. If you’re spending more than you can afford to lose, borrowing money or lying to family and friends, it might be time to seek help.

When people start to feel they’re losing control, it can be difficult to admit there’s a problem. They may try to hide their gambling or lie about it. They might start to feel guilty or anxious, which can lead to more serious problems. The best thing to do is to talk about it with someone. It can be helpful to find a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, or to seek individual therapy.

Getting help and breaking the gambling cycle is possible, but it takes courage. Firstly, you need to accept that there’s a problem and understand why you are gambling. Then you can take steps to address the issue. This may include attending a specialised gambling treatment programme, seeing a therapist, or seeking credit or marriage counselling. Most importantly, it’s essential to only ever gamble with money that you can afford to lose and never use money that you need to pay bills or rent. It’s also important to set a budget, stick to it and never chase your losses. You can also try to make more positive choices in your life, such as joining a gym or book club or volunteering for a charity. By finding other activities to do, you can replace the negative ones that led to gambling addiction in the first place. In this way, you can start to regain control of your life. You can also strengthen your support network by reaching out to friends and family.