Gambling is any activity in which you risk something of value for a chance at a prize. The potential prizes can range from small amounts of money to life-changing jackpots. While some people enjoy gambling, it can become a problem when the urge to gamble becomes compulsive. The good news is that there are ways to get help for a gambling disorder, and many of these strategies involve counseling.
Unlike drugs, gambling can be legally enjoyed in many places, including casinos, racetracks and on the Internet. However, a subset of those who gamble will go on to develop a gambling disorder, which is defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent pattern of gambling that causes significant distress or impairment.
The first step in getting help for a gambling addiction is admitting you have a problem. This can be difficult, especially if your gambling has strained or broken relationships and cost you a lot of money. The next step is seeking help, which may include counseling or support groups. One of the most effective treatments for gambling disorders is a 12-step program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. These programs provide the tools and support you need to overcome a gambling addiction and remain free from gambling.
Research has also shown that some people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behavior and impulsivity. This can affect how the brain processes rewards and controls impulses. Other factors that can contribute to gambling disorder include depression, stress and anxiety, which may be triggered or made worse by gambling. It’s also important to consider whether your culture or community has a strong influence on how you think about gambling.
Taking up new hobbies or socializing with friends who don’t gamble are other healthy ways to relieve boredom and loneliness. You can also seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to your gambling.
Studies of identical twins suggest that genes play a role in developing gambling disorder. But there are many other factors, too, including childhood experiences, traumatic events and even social or environmental circumstances. Research that incorporates longitudinal designs, which follow the same group of people over time, is likely to be more helpful in understanding how gambling disorders develop and what might prevent them.
In addition to family and individual therapy, other treatments that can be used to treat a gambling disorder include medications and self-help resources like self-assessment quizzes. But counseling is the most important and longest-term treatment. Counseling can help you learn to recognize your distorted thoughts and behaviors, think about the consequences of gambling, and find other ways to feel happy. In addition, counselors can help you deal with mood problems and work through family issues that may be causing or making your gambling problem worse. And for those who cannot afford counseling, there are online services that match you with a licensed and vetted therapist.