What is Gambling?

Gambling is often considered to be an exciting recreational activity that draws us in with the chance to win big. It comes in many different forms including casino slots and table games, playing the lottery, fantasy leagues and sports betting, online games such as poker, or even playing cards with your friends.

According to the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, the act of gambling is defined as an event that “involves risking something of value (usually money) on an activity or event in which the outcome is uncertain. The risk is undertaken in hopes of an immediate reward. Skill may be involved, in which case it may reduce the uncertainty but does not eliminate it.”

And although we often associate gambling with Las Vegas, it has become more widespread and accessible across the United States. Most major sports leagues now partner with vendors to allow and promote online gambling, which you can do from the comfort of your own home on your computer or on the go from your mobile phone. In the Chicagoland area, there are nine riverboat casinos within driving distance. States often tout legalized gambling as a way to increase revenues and balance the budget, and we’ve begun to see gambling restrictions eased throughout the country. For instance in Illinois, it was determined that all casinos must be housed on a body of water as a riverboat. However, one Chicago casino has been built over a shallow pit of water to sidestep this law.

What is Problem or Disordered Gambling?

You may be thinking, “What’s the problem? Let people spend their money however they want. It doesn’t have anything to do with me.” Unfortunately, gambling disorder is something that can have a severe negative impact on the lives of our family, friends, and loved ones. Additionally, a study conducted by Rash, Weinstock, and Patten (2016), indicates individuals with a gambling problem are more likely to experience a range of other difficulties like depression (49%-56%), anxiety disorders (41%-60%), alcohol use disorders (73%), and substance use disorders (38%). Furthermore, the research shows that “as many as 96% of individuals with lifetime gambling disorder also meet criteria for at least one other lifetime psychiatric disorder”.

So how do you know if you might have a issue with your gambling? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), problem or disordered gambling is defined as “persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” In other words, problem gambling may be exhibited through one’s need to:

  • gamble with larger amounts of money to feel excited,
  • irritability when trying to reduce or stop gambling,
  • unsuccessful attempts to control the gambling behavior,
  • preoccupation with past or future gambling experiences,
  • gambling to cope with negative emotions,
  • “chasing” one’s gambled wins or losses,
  • hiding gambling behavior from others,
  • relationship or job impairment,
  • or turning to family and friends for money due to gambling losses.

Getting Help with Counseling

Now, we can see how gambling may be problematic for a significant segment of the population. I’m passionate about working with clients struggling with their gambling, because it so often is connected to other problematic areas in one’s life. By addressing the gambling concerns, it often creates a positive ripple effect on one’s troubled finances, strained relationships, mood, and overall life satisfaction. In my work with gamblers, I strive to create an empathic, nonjudgmental environment, so that we may gain a clear understanding for the scope of gambling and its impact on the client’s daily life. I partner with the client to explore their gambling triggers step-by-step, then create a plan to help the client combat those urges through tailored coping skills. In addition, we will address any related mental health or relationship issues that may be contributing to or affected by the gambling behavior.

If you or a loved one may be experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, feel free to contact me – Anthony. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone!

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