Dealing With Gambling Problems

Gambling is a fun pastime for many people that involves betting something of value on the outcome of a game of chance or an uncertain event. However, for some individuals, gambling becomes a serious problem that affects their everyday lives. This is referred to as compulsive gambling. In addition to causing emotional and financial distress, it can cause damage to relationships and careers. Fortunately, help is available. The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Psychotherapy can help you cope with your addiction and rebuild your life.

The most common form of gambling is purchasing lottery tickets, playing games of chance such as casino games or poker, or taking part in sports wagering. Some states also allow people to place bets on horse races and other events, and there are online gambling sites. Regardless of how a person gambles, there are certain characteristics that may indicate a problem. Psychiatrists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose psychological disorders, and the latest version includes pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder.

Problem gambling is associated with high levels of anxiety, stress and depression. It can also interfere with sleep and increase alcohol and drug use. In addition, some researchers have found that a genetic predisposition for thrill-seeking behavior and impulsivity is associated with problematic gambling. In the past, psychiatry has categorized pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. However, the latest edition of the DSM classifies it alongside other addictive behaviors such as kleptomania and pyromania.

Although there are no definitive tests to identify a gambling problem, professionals can detect signs of trouble by looking at a person’s history and observing their behavior. They may also look at how much money is spent on gambling and whether the individual has tried to control or stop gambling. In addition, a therapist may consider whether the person has committed illegal acts to fund their gambling activities, such as forgery, embezzlement, or theft, and how they have suffered financial or relationship consequences as a result of their gambling behavior.

Some of the most important steps in dealing with a gambling problem are to remove yourself from risky situations and to establish new social connections. For example, it is a good idea to avoid credit cards, refrain from carrying large amounts of cash and keeping gambling venues close by, and limit the time spent on online gambling. In addition, it can be helpful to seek treatment for any underlying mood problems, such as depression or anxiety. It is also a good idea to participate in a support group for gamblers. One popular option is Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous that helps people stay on track with their recovery goals. Often, people who successfully overcome their gambling problems do so with the assistance of a sponsor, or a former gambler who has experience in overcoming addiction.