Gambling is any activity in which people stake something of value, such as money, in the hope of winning a prize. This can take many forms, including betting on sports events or races, playing casino games like blackjack or poker, and even buying lottery tickets. Many people are able to gamble responsibly and not experience problems, but others become addicted and end up losing control of their finances and their lives. The first step in getting help for a gambling problem is admitting that you have one. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or have had your relationships damaged by compulsive gambling. However, it’s important to recognize that gambling is a real problem because it can cause serious health, work, and relationship issues.
Research shows that if you have a family member or friend with a gambling problem, you are more likely to have one yourself. This is because gambling can be a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings and unwind, especially after a stressful day or argument with your spouse. It can also be a way to socialize and make new friends. Fortunately, there are healthy and more effective ways to relieve boredom and unpleasant emotions than gambling, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, practicing relaxation techniques, or taking up a new hobby.
While it’s common for people to engage in gambling for financial or entertainment reasons, there are some individuals who have a compulsion to gamble, which is referred to as pathological gambling (PG). It’s estimated that about 0.4%-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for a PG diagnosis, and this figure includes both recreational and problem gamblers. PG tends to run in families, and it’s more prevalent among men than women. It often starts in adolescence or young adulthood, but it can develop later in life too.
There are a number of treatment options for a gambling disorder, and your therapist may recommend a combination of them. For example, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors, such as rationalizing and false beliefs about gambling. It can also teach you how to fight urges and solve the financial, work, and relationship issues caused by your underlying problem.
In addition to CBT, psychodynamic therapy, family therapy, and group therapy can also be helpful for a gambling disorder. Additionally, it is often recommended that you try to attend support groups for gambling disorder, such as Gamblers Anonymous or Gam-Anon. Lastly, some studies have shown that physical activity can help with a gambling disorder. Depending on your situation, you might also benefit from medication. There are several antidepressants and other medications that have been proven to be effective in treating gambling disorders.