Gambling is putting something of value, such as money or possessions, at risk on the outcome of a game of chance. Most people gamble without any problems, but a small number develop gambling disorder (also known as compulsive gambling) — a condition that results in serious distress or impairment. The disorder is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
There are a variety of treatment options for gambling addiction. One approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. For example, people who struggle with compulsive gambling may learn to challenge irrational beliefs, such as the notion that a string of losses or near misses on a slot machine signal an imminent win. Other treatments focus on changing underlying mood disorders, such as depression or stress.
Another important step is to strengthen your support network. This could mean reaching out to friends and family members who do not gamble, joining a community sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause. It is also helpful to join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In these groups, participants find a sponsor, a former gambler with experience remaining free from the disorder, to guide them through the recovery process.
Other important steps include setting financial boundaries and establishing healthy credit. You may want to limit access to your credit cards, have someone else be in charge of your finances, close online betting accounts, and keep only a limited amount of cash on you at all times. It is also a good idea to seek help for any underlying mood disorders that may contribute to your gambling disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
It takes tremendous strength and courage to admit that you have a gambling problem, especially if you have lost significant amounts of money or strained relationships as a result. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that many others have recovered from their gambling struggles. Reaching out for support can help you feel less isolated and more empowered to tackle the problem head-on.