Gambling Disorder – How to Recognize and Treat a Gambling Problem

Gambling involves risking something of value, such as money or property, on an event that is largely unpredictable. It can take many forms, from betting on a sports team to win a game to playing casino games such as slot machines and poker. While gambling is not an addictive behavior for most people, some individuals can develop a problem, which can be difficult to recognize and treat.

It can be very challenging to admit that you have a gambling addiction, especially if it has caused problems in your relationships and work. However, seeking help is a good first step in breaking the habit and restoring your life. A professional therapist can help you find healthier ways to deal with stress, anxiety and depression, which may be contributing factors to your gambling addiction.

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the term “gambling disorder” was added to the category of behavioral addictions, joining substance-related disorders such as alcohol and drug abuse. The change reflects research that shows gambling disorder shares similarities with substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, physiology and treatment.

Although the main reason why people gamble is to try and win money, there are a number of other reasons behind this behavior, including mood changes, social rewards, and the dream of achieving a jackpot win. Some people also use gambling as a way to relieve boredom, or as a form of self-soothing after a stressful day at work.

Often, those who have trouble controlling their gambling will hide the activity from friends and family, or lie about how much they gamble. They may also start to increase the amount they bet in order to try and win back money that has been lost, which is called chasing their losses.

It is also important to remember that no matter what type of gambling you are doing, there is always the possibility that you will lose money. Therefore, you should never bet more than you can afford to lose. It is also a good idea to set a budget for how much you want to spend, and avoid placing bets on events where the odds of winning are very low.

If you have a loved one with a gambling problem, it is important to reach out for support and stay strong. Seek the help of a therapist, and consider joining a peer-based support group such as Gamblers Anonymous or Gam-Anon. If you have difficulty paying for treatment, consider using BetterHelp to get matched with a licensed therapist in your area. The CU Community Counseling and Recovery Center also offers support for students, staff and faculty through AcademicLiveCare, which allows you to schedule virtual counseling or psychiatry appointments from anywhere.