Treatment For Gambling Disorders


Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value, such as money or possessions, on an event that is at least partly determined by chance and in which they hope to win. It may be a recreational activity for many, but it can also have serious consequences. In some cases, a person who is gambling becomes addicted and has a difficult time controlling their behavior. Fortunately, treatment is available for those who suffer from gambling disorder.

In the United States, about 2 million people (1%) have a serious problem with gambling. It can cause distress, interfere with work or study and damage relationships. In addition, it can lead to debt and even homelessness. Several types of therapy can help with gambling disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. Some medications can be helpful as well, especially those that reduce anxiety and depression.

Psychiatric treatment for gambling disorders is similar to that of other addictions. It involves a combination of therapies and medications. Family and individual counseling is important to help the afflicted person understand their problem, think about options and solve problems. It is also important to set limits on access to money and credit. Some people with gambling disorders need inpatient or residential programs that provide round-the-clock support.

Some research suggests that individuals who gamble are more likely to have a brain reward system that is underactive, leading to impulsivity and a desire for excitement. Other factors may contribute to problematic gambling, such as a history of trauma or social inequality. It is also possible that genetics and environment play a role. Some people are more predisposed to gambling than others and may start at a younger age.

Gambling is a popular pastime worldwide, with more than $10 trillion wagered each year legally and illegally. While most people associate gambling with slot machines and casinos, it is important to remember that many other activities are considered gambling as well. Buying lottery or scratch-off tickets, betting on sports events or the outcome of an election, playing bingo and participating in office pools are all forms of gambling.

When a loved one has a gambling problem, it is important to remember that they did not choose to become addicted. They may be gambling for coping reasons such as to forget their worries or to feel self-confident, or because it provides an escape from negative emotions like anger and sadness. Trying to understand their motives can help you avoid becoming angry at them or making unhelpful comments. You can also encourage them to seek help for their gambling disorder. For example, you can ask them to attend a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which uses a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also offer to help with financial matters or participate in a family self-help program such as Gam-Anon.