Gambling involves risking something of value (like money) on an event that has some element of randomness or chance, and the intent is to win a prize. Traditionally, this includes games of chance such as poker, blackjack, and roulette played in brick-and-mortar casinos as well as horse races and bingo. More recently, online gambling and lottery-like activities have also been considered forms of gambling.
Understanding of gambling disorder has undergone a major shift in the last few decades. Whereas once it was viewed as a behavioral issue, it has now been classified as a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Pathological gambling is a type of impulse control disorder that can cause serious problems in relationships and work or school performance. It is estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for pathological gambling (PG), which was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980. Historically, it was thought that people who gambled compulsively had a personality disorder, but now researchers are discovering a biological basis for the condition.
Symptoms of a gambling disorder include: (1) an inability to control or reduce one’s gambling behavior; (2) persistent feelings of restlessness or irritability related to gambling; (3) lying to family members, therapists, and/or others to conceal or downplay your gambling behavior; (4) a tendency to gamble for high amounts of money or possessions; (5) a need to recover losses by gambling more than you win; (6) engaging in illegal acts to finance gambling; (7) losing a job, educational opportunity, or personal relationship because of gambling; and (8) relying on other people to bail you out of financial trouble caused by gambling.
Psychotherapy can help people with gambling disorders. It uses different treatment techniques, including psychoeducation and cognitive behavioral therapy, to teach you skills to overcome your unhealthy thinking and behaviors. It’s important to seek a licensed therapist that specializes in treating gambling disorders.
It’s also crucial to address any other mood disorders that may be contributing to your gambling behaviors. Depression, stress, or anxiety can trigger or make worse gambling disorders. They can also interfere with your ability to participate in healthy activities and find pleasure in other ways.
Finally, if you’re struggling with compulsive gambling, it’s important to find healthier ways to relieve boredom and self-soothe unpleasant emotions. Try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. The first step is admitting you have a problem. It’s a big leap, especially if you’ve lost money or damaged relationships as a result of your gambling addiction. But remember, many other people have successfully overcome this difficult habit and rebuilt their lives. You can do it, too. GET STARTED WITH A THERAPIST TODAY!