Gambling is betting money or something else of value on an event that has a random chance of occurring, and where there is no element of skill. It is considered a recreational activity by many people, and it contributes a large percentage to the economies of countries all over the world. However, gambling can have serious ramifications for some individuals when it becomes an addiction. In addition to the obvious financial losses and broken relationships, individuals with an addiction to gambling can experience psychological and emotional distress as well. The good news is that there are treatments available to help those struggling with this condition.
In the past, pathological gambling (PG) was not classified as a mental health disorder and was instead included under impulse control disorders, which also include kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in recent years, the American Psychiatric Association has recognized that PG is an addiction, and it now appears in the section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders on addictive disorders. PG can start in adolescence or young adulthood and is more common among men than women. Male PG sufferers tend to develop a problem with more strategic or face-to-face games, such as poker and blackjack, while female PG sufferers have trouble with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling like slots or bingo.
There are many different treatment options for gambling addiction, including individual therapy and group therapy, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Individual therapy can help a person identify their triggers and learn new coping skills. Group therapy allows participants to share their experiences and provide support to one another. Individuals may also benefit from learning to confront their irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a string of losses or a close miss is a sign that a winning streak is imminent.
Intensive outpatient programs can be an effective option for people with severe and enduring gambling problems. These programs typically involve a combination of medication, counseling, and support groups. These programs can be expensive, but they can also be life-saving. Lastly, some people who have an addiction to gambling find relief by participating in self-help groups for gamblers. These groups are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and offer support from peers who have successfully overcome their gambling addictions.
Recognizing that you have a gambling problem is the first step to recovery. It takes courage to admit it, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money and strained or even destroyed your relationships. Counseling can help you understand your problem, consider your options, and solve problems. If you’re ready to take the next step, try our therapist directory and get matched with a therapist now. You can also call our 24/7 hotline for free, confidential support. The therapists we match you with have been vetted, licensed, and insured and are experts in treating gambling addiction. They are trained to listen, not judge, and will help you get on the road to recovery.