How to Overcome a Gambling Disorder


Gambling is the risking of something of value on an outcome that depends upon chance. It can take many forms — from betting on sports or horses to buying lottery tickets or scratch-offs. Most adults and adolescents have gambled at one time or another. Some go on to develop gambling disorder, which is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent, recurrent pattern of maladaptive gambling behavior that is associated with substantial distress or impairment.

It is important to remember that gambling is not a skill and does not necessarily lead to happiness or wealth. While some people may win big, the vast majority lose. Moreover, even a small amount of money lost can have serious ramifications for a person’s life and well-being. In addition, many studies have shown that problem gamblers often become preoccupied with thoughts about their gambling and how to get more money to gamble. They might also lie to others in order to conceal their gambling. Some have jeopardized relationships, employment or educational opportunities as a result of their gambling.

Psychiatrists use various treatment methods to address gambling disorders. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches a person to examine their beliefs and behaviors around gambling. For example, CBT can help a person with a gambling problem realize that they are more likely to lose than win and learn better ways to cope with unpleasant feelings. In addition, therapists can teach patients to set limits for themselves and not be tempted by credit card offers or other marketing tactics.

Researchers are investigating the causes of gambling problems. They are using a variety of research designs, including longitudinal data collection. Longitudinal data allow researchers to identify the factors that moderate and exacerbate a person’s gambling participation. They can also identify the conditions under which an individual is most likely to develop a gambling problem. For instance, pathological gambling tends to be more common in men than women and usually develops in adolescence or young adulthood. In addition, a person is more likely to develop a gambling problem in nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling such as lotteries or slot machines.

The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to admit this, especially if you have already lost a significant amount of money or have strained or broken some of your relationships as a result of your gambling. To make the process easier, you should reach out to a support group. For example, you can join Gamblers Anonymous, a program based on Alcoholics Anonymous that teaches people to overcome their gambling addiction by finding healthier and more productive ways to relieve boredom and stress, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, taking up new hobbies, or volunteering for a cause. You can also seek professional help, such as family therapy, marriage counseling or credit counseling.