If gambling has turned from a fun, harmless diversion into an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences for you and your relationships, it may be time to seek help. A therapist can teach you how to break the cycle of self-destructive behavior, so you can recover from your addiction and live a healthier, happier life.
Gambling is any type of game of chance where you stake something of value for a chance to win money or another prize. It can be as simple as buying a lottery ticket or betting on a horse race, or it may involve more sophisticated games like blackjack or poker. Whether you gamble at casinos, racetracks, or online, a gambling problem can strain your relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial disaster. Those with a severe addiction often lose control and may engage in illegal activities such as forgery, fraud, or theft to finance their habit.
Despite its high social and economic costs, gambling remains popular. It is legal in most states and many people use the Internet to gamble from home. For many, gambling can be a coping mechanism to deal with feelings of stress or anxiety. Moreover, it has been shown to relieve boredom and increase self-esteem.
While most people who gamble do not have a problem, some individuals are predisposed to develop gambling disorder. Symptoms may begin during adolescence or young adulthood, and they usually get worse over time. Pathological gamblers are more likely to be men than women, and they tend to start gambling at a younger age. Moreover, they are more likely to have trouble with strategic forms of gambling, such as card games and poker, and less likely to have problems with nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.
Some factors that can contribute to gambling disorder include a family history of gambling, childhood trauma, and personal or family experiences with substance abuse. Other risk factors include personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions. In addition, gambling can trigger a number of other behavioral disorders such as impulse control disorders (kleptomania and pyromania), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome.
Psychiatrists treat gambling disorder with medications, psychotherapy, and other treatments. A therapist can teach you how to recognize and respond to the warning signs of gambling disorder, and offer practical advice on how to stop or limit your gambling.
A therapist can also help you find healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, yoga, and meditation. In addition, you can reach out to a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Ultimately, the biggest step is recognizing that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to a gambling addiction, especially if it has strained or broken your relationships and cost you a lot of money. Fortunately, many others have successfully overcome this challenging habit and rebuilt their lives.