Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is at least partially determined by chance with the hope of winning a prize. It can be done in many places, including casinos, racetracks, church halls, and the Internet. The most common forms of gambling are slot machines, bingo, and buying lottery or scratch-off tickets. Some people are able to gamble responsibly, but others develop a problem that needs treatment.
Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of behavior that involve betting, losses, and/or impaired control over betting. PG typically starts in adolescence or early adulthood and tends to run in families. PG is more prevalent among men than women. It is more likely to develop with strategic or “face-to-face” types of gambling, such as poker and blackjack, than nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms, such as slot machines and bingo. PG also is more likely to occur with co-occurring disorders, such as alcohol or substance use disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
While many people think of casinos or racetracks when they think of gambling, it can happen in other places too — such as gas stations, restaurants, and even churches. Some people gamble online, and a growing number of people are using smartphones to play games like slots, video poker, and card games.
Unlike some other addictions, there is no FDA-approved medication for treating gambling disorders. However, therapy can help people manage their urges and learn healthy coping mechanisms. Therapy can include family, marriage, and career counseling, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy.
Counseling can also help people understand what makes them gamble and how the habit affects their lives. People who suffer from a gambling addiction can feel overwhelmed and alone, especially when they lose a lot of money or ruin relationships because of their gambling habits. Counseling can provide them with a support network and help them find other ways to have fun that don’t involve risking their hard-earned money.
Some people with a gambling disorder have difficulty admitting that they have a problem because of the stigma associated with it. They may also be afraid that their loved ones will reject them if they admit that they have a gambling addiction. However, getting help is essential for overcoming the problem and rebuilding relationships.
The first step in treating a gambling addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem. It can take tremendous strength and courage to do this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or destroyed relationships as a result of your gambling. It’s important to remember that many other people have successfully broken their gambling addictions, and they can show you the way.