Gambling involves placing a bet on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the intention of winning something of value. Although gambling is often associated with casinos and slot machines, it can also be done by purchasing lottery or scratch tickets, playing bingo, and betting on office pools. In addition to risking money, gambling can also lead to depression and other psychological problems. Fortunately, help is available for those with gambling disorders.
The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to do this, especially if you have lost a significant amount of money or have strained or broken relationships because of your gambling habits. Once you have acknowledged your problem, it is important to seek treatment. There are a variety of therapies available for people with gambling disorders, including individual and family therapy. Some treatments are based on cognitive-behavioral theory, while others focus on teaching people to resist irrational thoughts and behaviors. Some people with gambling disorders may benefit from a combination of both types of treatment.
A person may have a gambling disorder if they:
Have difficulty controlling their spending or are unable to stop gambling despite losses;
Lie to friends, family members, and therapists in order to conceal their involvement in gambling;
Commit illegal acts, such as forgery or theft, to finance their gambling activities;
Are constantly thinking about or planning ways to gamble;
Have significant emotional problems (e.g., anxiety, depression) that contribute to or are made worse by their gambling;
Feel an irresistible urge to place a bet or wager despite the consequences;
Be unable to stop gambling, even when they have substantial losses;
Are preoccupied with their gambling activities and neglect other aspects of their life;
Have significant financial problems because of gambling or spend more money than they can afford to lose;
The prevalence of gambling disorders is highest among people living in poverty. The lure of quick money is particularly appealing to people who struggle to provide for themselves and their families, and individuals in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods are more likely to develop a gambling problem than those in higher-income communities.
Many people who struggle with gambling addiction can successfully overcome their behavior with the help of professional therapy. However, it’s important to remember that relapse is common and to seek help immediately if you have any of the symptoms of a gambling disorder. A therapist can teach you to replace your harmful habits with healthier ones and support you through your recovery journey. In addition to individual and family therapy, there are a number of support groups that can be helpful for those with gambling addictions, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Many of these groups are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, and a key aspect of the program is finding a sponsor who can guide you through the 12-step process.