Gambling involves risking money or other items of value in a game of chance. People gamble for different reasons, from the desire to win a jackpot to changing their mood through the release of endorphins caused by gambling. Some people also use gambling to relieve stress and anxiety or socialize with friends. However, some individuals develop a problem with gambling that affects their daily life and health. This is known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling. The most difficult step in treating a gambling disorder is admitting that there is a problem. Once a person has reached this stage, there are several treatment options.
The most effective treatment for gambling disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches patients how to recognize and change unhealthy thinking patterns, including rationalizations and false beliefs that lead to problematic behaviors. It also teaches patients how to cope with cravings and how to deal with financial, work, and relationship issues that may contribute to the gambling disorder.
Various methods are used to treat gambling addiction, including individual and group therapy, family therapy, and psychodynamic therapy. Medications can help control symptoms, and some research shows that physical activity can reduce urges to gamble. However, it is important to remember that the best way to recover from gambling addiction is with professional help. Those with severe problems should consider inpatient or residential treatment programs, which provide round-the-clock care and support.
Many individuals who suffer from compulsive gambling also have underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Those who do not receive treatment for these conditions may find that they continue to gamble and experience relapses. Some of these disorders, such as bipolar disorder, may be treated with antidepressant medications or mood stabilizers.
It is possible to overcome a gambling addiction, but it takes tremendous strength and courage, especially for those who have lost large sums of money or have strained or broken relationships due to gambling. The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem, and then seek help. Some treatment options include individual and group therapy, a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, and medication. Some studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can help people control their gambling behavior, and self-help groups for families like Gam-Anon can be useful in supporting family members of someone with a gambling disorder.
Often, people who struggle with gambling will try to hide their addiction or lie about it. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness. Other signs that a person is struggling with gambling addiction include: a lack of interest in hobbies or other activities; hiding or lying about the amount of time spent on gambling; attempts to get back the money that was lost by betting more than he or she can afford to lose (chasing losses); relying on others for money to finance gambling; and stealing or falsifying documents in order to fund gambling. These are all a result of a gambling addiction and should be taken seriously.