Gambling is the act of placing a wager on something of value, usually money, with the intention of winning a prize. While most people gamble in some form, a small number of individuals develop a gambling disorder, defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a compulsive urge to gamble that results in significant distress or impairment. In addition to causing negative personal and family consequences, a gambling addiction can also have severe financial repercussions.
There are a variety of factors that can lead to gambling disorders, including genetic predisposition and environmental influences. Individuals who are born with an underactive brain reward system or who are impulsive may be more susceptible to developing an addiction. Additionally, some people who live in communities where gambling is prevalent may have a greater exposure to the activity and may find it easier to develop harmful behaviors.
The first step to recovering from a gambling problem is admitting that there is a problem. For many, this is a difficult task, especially if the gambling has cost them a great deal of money and has strained or broken their relationships. Individual and family therapy, as well as marriage, career, and credit counseling can help individuals work through the specific issues created by their gambling addiction and begin to rebuild their lives.
A variety of treatments are available for people who are struggling with a gambling disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy, individual and group therapy, psychoeducational programs, and the use of medications. Individual and family therapy can help individuals learn coping skills, identify triggers, and change their thinking patterns. Medications can be used to reduce gambling urges or to treat coexisting conditions such as depression or anxiety.
Research is ongoing to better understand what causes some individuals to develop a gambling addiction, and how it can be prevented and treated. One of the main challenges is conducting longitudinal studies, which are required to establish a cause–effect relationship. This is challenging because of the expense of maintaining research teams over a long period of time, difficulties in collecting accurate and consistent data, and the effect of aging and other variables on the outcome of the study.
In order to recover from a gambling disorder, it is essential to take control of your finances and avoid gambling altogether or at least limit the amount that you gamble. This can be done by closing all of your online betting accounts, limiting the amount of money that you keep on hand when you are gambling, or getting rid of your credit cards and allowing someone else to manage your finances for you. It is also important to find healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. Additionally, it is important to avoid attempting to “get even” with previous losses by gambling again. This is known as chasing your losses and can lead to further problems with gambling, credit, and finances.