Gambling involves placing something of value at an event with an uncertain outcome. Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on the horses or using the pokies, gambling can be a fun way to pass time or get some excitement from winning money. But for many people, it can become a problem. If you find that your gambling is causing harm, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.
Several types of therapy can help you manage your gambling and address any underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety that may be contributing to the problem. Seeking treatment is particularly important if you are in financial trouble as it can increase the risk of harmful gambling behavior. If you’re struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential debt advice.
The most important first step is recognizing that you have a gambling problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if your habit has cost you significant amounts of money and strained or even destroyed your relationships. But it is very much possible to overcome this addictive behavior and rebuild your life. Several effective treatments exist, including cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and family therapy. It’s also helpful to learn more about how gambling works and the risk factors involved, as well as seeking support from friends and family.
In some cases, the behavior of gambling can be so serious that it meets diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling (PG), a condition described by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of problematic behaviors. Approximately 0.4%-1.6% of Americans meet this criteria, with males tending to develop PG earlier and more frequently than females.
Research has shown that a combination of cognitive-behavior therapy and psychotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for PG. CBT teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and behaviors, while psychotherapy can help patients work through the underlying emotional issues that contribute to their disorder.
Another approach to treating a gambling problem is to identify and avoid the triggers that cause you to gamble. This may involve avoiding situations or activities that are associated with gambling, such as going to casinos, participating in sports wagering or attending televised sporting events. You can also make a commitment to only gamble with money you can afford to lose and limit your play time.
The best thing you can do to prevent a gambling problem is to stop gambling completely. However, this can be difficult, particularly if you’ve been gambling for a long time and have built up a lot of equity in your bank account. If you’re in the midst of a gambling addiction, it’s important to recognize that it is a serious and potentially life-threatening disorder. If you are ready to commit to getting help, start by finding a therapist in your area who offers online counseling for gambling addiction. You can be matched with a professional, licensed and vetted therapist in less than 48 hours.