There are many reasons why a person may start to gamble. Sometimes, it may be an escape from unpleasant feelings, and in such cases, gambling is a way to self-soothe. Other times, gambling is a way to unwind or socialize. Other ways to combat boredom include exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. In any case, if gambling becomes a habit, it is best to stop immediately.
Problem gambling is a serious addiction that can impact an individual’s life in many ways. In addition to financial and legal ramifications, it can also cause emotional and social problems. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe, and can even worsen over time. Problem gambling has been previously known as pathological gambling or compulsive gaming. In 2006, the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized problem gambling as Impulse Control Disorder.
Signs of a problem
While most people can enjoy a game of poker or place a bet on a horse, signs of a problem with gambling often go unnoticed until it becomes a habit. Those who suffer from gambling addictions often experience a variety of emotional symptoms, ranging from suicidal thoughts to self-harming tendencies. Symptoms of excessive gambling also include sleep deprivation, pale skin, and weight gain or loss. Some people also develop acne or dark circles under their eyes.
A variety of treatment options exist for people with a gambling addiction. Inpatient and outpatient programs may be recommended. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most common form of therapy, which focuses on challenging harmful thoughts and behaviors related to gambling. Other options include support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous meetings. Self-directed computer interventions can also be helpful. Regardless of the specific form of treatment used, individuals must face their addiction head-on.
State laws vary greatly regarding the legality of gambling. Some states, such as New Jersey and California, do not allow gambling activities on their property. In addition, interstate gambling is banned, though the US government allows states to regulate gambling activities within their borders. For example, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 banned gambling nationwide, although the United States Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Most states have some form of gambling law, including state-run lotteries. However, Hawaii is not allowed to engage in gambling before it became a state, and Utah has a gambling ban in its constitution.
Often referred to as a “precipitating factor” for a number of health problems, excessive gambling is a serious addiction. Numerous studies have demonstrated a connection between gambling and certain health conditions, including mental health disorders and substance abuse. People who engage in excessive gambling are also more susceptible to cardiovascular arrest, hypertension, peptic ulcers, insomnia, and other maladies caused by prolonged stress. Whether the gambler is a professional or a casual player, there are many potential health dangers associated with excessive gambling.