How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

The gambling industry provides an array of products, including casinos, lotteries, sports betting, and horse racetracks. It also encompasses social gaming, online gaming, and peer-to-peer betting. The amount of money legally wagered each year is estimated to be around $10 trillion. In addition to legal gambling, some individuals engage in illegal gambling activities. Gambling can be both a source of income and a significant cause of personal debt, especially for those who are unable to control their spending. The risk of addiction to gambling can also have serious family and career consequences.

Problem gambling is characterized by recurrent and maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. Approximately 0.4%-1.6% of Americans meet the criteria for pathological gambling (PG). The incidence of PG is greater among men than women, and it increases with age. Those with PG typically begin gambling in adolescence or young adulthood. Males with PG tend to report problems with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as blackjack and poker, while females are more likely to have trouble with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines and bingo.

People with a problem with gambling are at greater risk of experiencing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. They are also more likely to have suffered from abuse as children. In some cases, the presence of a mood disorder can trigger gambling behavior or make compulsive gambling worse. In addition, some types of drugs may worsen a person’s gambling symptoms.

The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is recognizing that you have a problem. This is often a difficult step, especially if you have lost large sums of money or damaged relationships as a result of your gambling. The next step is finding the right treatment option for you. You may consider individual or group psychotherapy, which can help you understand your problem and find healthy ways to cope. Other treatments may include cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches you to recognize and manage your negative thoughts and behaviors, or psychodynamic therapy, which examines unconscious processes that influence your behavior.

Lastly, you should try to strengthen your support network and find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. You can do this by reaching out to friends who don’t gamble, joining a book club or sports team, enrolling in a community education class, or volunteering for a worthy cause. In addition, you may want to join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders. However, some medications can help with underlying conditions such as depression or anxiety, which may be making you more vulnerable to gambling. In addition, you should seek counseling to address any other underlying issues that are contributing to your gambling problems. Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling are all useful in addressing the specific issues created or made worse by your gambling.