How to Overcome a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is a form of entertainment that involves betting on an event that is largely determined by chance in hopes of winning a prize. It is an ancient activity that has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history. While it can provide people with enjoyment and a sense of excitement, for some individuals, it leads to addiction that negatively impacts their health, finances, relationships, work or study performance and legal status.

Gambling disorder is a psychiatric condition that requires professional treatment and therapy to overcome. Individuals who suffer from gambling disorder experience a continuous or periodic loss of control over their gambling activities, a preoccupation with gambling and/or obtaining money to gamble, and irrational thinking about gambling and its consequences (American Psychiatric Association, 1980). In addition, those who have gambling disorders are at risk for serious problems in their lives, including homelessness, financial ruin, family discord, substance use, depression and suicide.

Although a variety of forms of gambling exist, the literature largely views them as a single class based on their consistent phenomenology. Among the most common are lotteries, slot machines, video games and sports gambling. While these different types of gambling differ in the degree to which they involve chance and strategy, researchers and clinicians have found several key similarities among them.

People who have a gambling problem often struggle to recognize their addiction and find it difficult to seek help for their problems. This is in part because some cultures view gambling as an enjoyable pastime, making it challenging to distinguish between normal and unhealthy levels of gambling. In addition, some people have a genetic disposition to thrill-seeking behavior and impulsivity that can influence how they respond to risk and reward.

While it is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, it takes courage and persistence. It is important to seek the support of friends and family members, as well as professionals who can provide referrals to certified gambling counselors and intensive treatment programs in your area.

It is also helpful to seek help for any mood disorders that may be contributing to or exacerbate your gambling problem. Depression, anxiety and stress can trigger or worsen gambling disorders and can make the symptoms more difficult to treat. Managing these mood disorders is an essential component of recovery from a gambling addiction. Lastly, it is important to take steps to prevent gambling from occurring in the first place. This includes avoiding casinos, placing limits on credit card spending, putting someone else in charge of your finances, closing online gambling accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash with you at all times. You can also join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and has been shown to be effective in helping people overcome their gambling disorders.