Gambling involves risking money or property on events that are primarily determined by chance, such as casino games, lotteries, sports betting and online gambling. It is estimated that about $10 trillion is legally wagered every year worldwide. It can be a source of enjoyment and can help support a family, but when it becomes compulsive it can cause many problems.
The first step in overcoming a gambling problem is to realize that you have one. This can take tremendous courage, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships because of your behavior. But it’s important to know that there are professionals who can help.
A therapist can teach you healthy ways to cope with unpleasant feelings, such as anger or anxiety, that lead you to gamble. A therapist can also help you develop a strong support system. They can show you healthier, safer ways to relieve boredom or socialize, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up new hobbies, or practicing relaxation techniques.
If your loved one has a gambling problem, you can help by setting boundaries about money and credit. You can also encourage your loved one to seek counseling. It can be helpful to find a counselor who specializes in treating addiction, as they may have additional knowledge about the specific challenges associated with gambling disorder.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. It typically starts during adolescence or young adulthood and is more common in males than females. PG can affect any type of gambling, but is more likely to occur in strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling such as blackjack or poker, and less likely to occur in nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling like lottery tickets, slot machines or bingo.
While it’s unclear exactly what causes a person to become addicted to gambling, researchers do know that there are several factors. They include:
The most commonly used diagnosis for problem gambling is compulsive gambling disorder, which was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 2000. People with this disorder have difficulty controlling their gambling and have serious consequences as a result. They have repeated unsuccessful attempts to control, reduce or stop their gambling. They may steal to finance their gambling or lie to family members, therapists, or employers to conceal their behavior.
Despite the fact that a number of psychological treatments have been developed for pathological gambling, they are not very effective. This is probably because the underlying mood disorders that often lead to gambling are not addressed. Mood disorders like depression and anxiety can make compulsive gambling worse, and they can also contribute to other behavioral problems. Medications that treat mood disorders can be very helpful in treating problem gambling. Moreover, they can decrease the likelihood of relapse. Several other treatment approaches are also being studied, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and peer-support programs like Gamblers Anonymous.