You may be betting against your health during Sunday’s big game

You may be betting against your health during Sunday’s big game

How much are you willing to bet on your favorite sports team? Nearly 68 million Americans are planning to wager a collective $23.1 billion on Sunday’s big game – a new record – according to the American Gaming Association. While the odds of winning may fall in your favor, gambling does come with a health risk.

Most adults and adolescents in the United States have placed some type of bet without problems, but according to the American Psychological Association, a significant subset of people who start gambling go on to develop a gambling addiction.

“There are biological brain changes that occur the more someone participates in gambling,” explains Dr. Munther Barakat, the director of behavioral health therapy at Aurora Health Care. “The simpler it is to engage in the behavior, the more likely you can become addicted to the behavior.”

It has gotten easier to gamble on a game, thanks to a 2018 Supreme Court ruling allowing the legalization of sports betting on a state-by-state basis. Along with the legalization came an increased prevalence of online sports betting platforms, which appeals to a younger audience. Research shows the fastest-growing group of sports gamblers are between 21 and 24 years old.

Signs of addiction

Gambling addiction includes all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal and professional areas of life.

“It’s important to understand how much of your emotions are involved in gambling. If you notice you’re becoming more emotionally invested in every bet you make, you’re headed down the wrong path,” warns Dr. Barakat.

The American Psychiatric Association reports a person with a gambling addiction may experience:

  • Having frequent thoughts about gambling
  • Making repeated, unsuccessful efforts to cut back on or stop gambling
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • Lying to hide gambling
  • Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling
Related issues and treatment

There is a small correlation of those with a gambling addiction who also struggle with mental health issues, suicide ideation, depression or substance abuse, according to Dr. Barakat. Meeting with a therapist can help.

Like all therapy, different approaches may work better for different people. Counseling for gambling addiction can help a person gain control over their habit, handle stress, avoid triggers and maintain recovery.

Looking for a doctor or behavioral health specialist? Find one that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin, or do a virtual visit from home.

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About the Author

Danielle Mandella
Danielle Mandella

Danielle Mandella, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator in Greater Milwaukee, Wis.