Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves placing a bet or wager on an event that has some element of risk and is based on chance. It can take many forms, from casino games to betting on football accumulators and lottery results. Although gambling can be an enjoyable pastime for some people, for others it can become a serious addiction that leads to financial and personal problems.

Problem gamblers may experience harm to their health and well-being, relationships and work, and can even end up homeless or in prison. People from all backgrounds can develop gambling problems. Genetics, environment and mental illness increase the risk of developing an addictive gambling disorder. Children and teenagers are more likely to be at risk of developing a gambling disorder, but people of any age can develop problems.

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player, there are ways to minimise the risks. The first step is to recognise when you have a problem. Then, make a decision to seek help and take steps to change your habits. Having a therapist can also be helpful to talk through these issues and to learn healthy coping mechanisms.

There are various types of therapy that can help with gambling disorders. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, group therapies and family therapy. The most important step is to admit that you have a gambling problem. It takes a lot of strength and courage, especially if you have lost a significant amount of money or strained your relationships as a result of your gambling behaviour. Despite the stigma associated with gambling disorders, many people do recover from their addictions and rebuild their lives.

In the past, gamblers were viewed as amoral and dishonest and were often treated with cruelty and a lack of compassion. However, our understanding of pathological gambling has undergone a dramatic shift. It is now recognised as an impulse control disorder and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.

Some people are able to stop their gambling behaviour on their own, while others require professional intervention. Those with a severe problem can experience a range of symptoms, including cravings, compulsive behavior and distorted thinking. The DSM describes these behaviours as “pathological” gambling.

Often, those with a gambling problem try to hide their behaviour or lie about how much they gamble. They may also try to convince themselves that they can control their gambling and that it is not causing them harm. Often, these individuals find it hard to accept they have a problem and are reluctant to seek treatment.

If you are concerned about your gambling, it is worth examining if you have any underlying mood disorders that might be contributing to the problem. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse can all trigger or be made worse by compulsive gambling. You can get help by completing the BetterHelp assessment and getting matched with a therapist who can help with these disorders.