Recognising and Treating Gambling Disorders


Gambling is an activity in which people place bets on a random event with the hope of winning something of value. It may be done legally or illegally, in casinos, lotteries, or on the internet. Some people find it an enjoyable pastime, while others experience a serious problem with gambling that can lead to significant financial and emotional problems.

Some people gamble in order to win money and enjoy the thrill of risk-taking, while others do it for entertainment and social interaction. Regardless of the reason, if you find yourself engaging in gambling behaviors that are causing harm to your health and wellbeing, it’s time to seek help. There are a variety of treatment options available, including psychotherapy, family therapy, and credit counseling. You can also seek support from peer groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.

It’s important to recognise that you have a problem, especially if it’s causing you distress and straining relationships. However, it can be difficult to admit you have a gambling addiction because it’s often associated with shame and embarrassment. This is particularly true if you’ve lost a lot of money and have damaged your relationships as a result.

Those with mental health conditions are at particular risk of harmful gambling. This is because they’re more likely to be predisposed to the reward seeking behavior that gambling stimulates. They’re also more likely to turn to gambling as a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling depressed or anxious. This can further compound their problems and make it harder for them to recover from harmful gambling habits.

Research has shown that certain types of psychotherapy can be effective for treating gambling disorder. One approach is called motivational enhancement therapy, which aims to change unhealthy emotions and thoughts about gambling by helping patients identify and challenge their negative beliefs. Another option is cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing maladaptive thinking patterns by teaching individuals healthier ways to respond to stress and anxiety.

While the psychiatric community has long regarded pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, it recently moved it into the addictions chapter of its diagnostic manual. This move reflects the growing understanding of the biology behind addiction and the importance of early intervention.

If you think you have a gambling problem, it’s important to address it immediately. You should seek professional advice from a therapist or counselor and consider seeking financial aid from StepChange, a free debt charity. Also, it’s important to make sure you only gamble with what you can afford to lose and set money and time limits for yourself. Doing this will ensure that you don’t spend more than you can afford to pay back. It’s also important to try and find other ways to get the rewards you’re used to getting from gambling, such as spending time with loved ones or taking part in a healthy hobby. Finally, you should look at whether you have any coexisting mental health conditions that could be triggering your gambling habits.