Treating a Gambling Disorder


Gambling involves risking something of value (money, assets, property) on an event that depends in part on chance. It includes activities such as placing a bet on a football game, playing a slot machine, or purchasing a scratchcard. If you predict the outcome of the event correctly, you win money or another prize. If you lose, you lose the money or asset you gambled with. Gambling also encompasses activities that do not involve money, such as collecting trading cards or small discs used in games like Magic: The Gathering. The amount of money legally wagered on gambling events worldwide is estimated to be around $10 trillion per year.

Some people develop a serious problem with gambling. This is called pathological gambling or PG. Symptoms include preoccupation with gambling, spending more and more time on it, lying to family and friends about the extent of your involvement in gambling, and chasing losses. PG often occurs along with other behavioral problems and mood disorders, such as unmanaged ADHD, substance abuse, depression, or anxiety.

The first step to treating a gambling disorder is admitting that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to do this, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money or have strained or broken relationships as a result of your gambling behaviors. You may also need to address any other mental health conditions you have that contribute to your addiction to gambling.

Many types of psychotherapy can help people struggling with gambling disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, for example, can teach people to resist unwanted thoughts and urges. It can also help them learn healthier ways to spend their free time and address any other underlying issues contributing to their gambling behavior. Other types of psychotherapy, such as interpersonal therapy and marriage and relationship counseling, can help people deal with stress and address any underlying problems that might be contributing to their gambling behavior.

There are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of gambling disorders, but some medications may be helpful in treating coexisting conditions such as depression or anxiety. Moreover, counseling can help people understand their gambling problems and think about their options for change. They can also get support from family and friends and join a peer-support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Changing your lifestyle is a vital part of treating a gambling disorder. Try to find other things to do with your time, such as reading a book, taking a class, or exercising. You could also join a sports team, an educational program, or a charity organization. You might also consider finding a mentor, or enrolling in a recovery program such as Gamblers Anonymous, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. The more you engage in healthy activities, the less likely you will be to turn to gambling for pleasure and to distract yourself from other problems. You should also seek support from family and friends and seek out professional help if necessary. These steps can make a big difference in your life and help you to overcome your gambling disorder.