How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves placing something of value (money, property or goods) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the intention of winning something else of value. It can include games of chance, such as bingo, lottery and slot machines, or card games like blackjack or poker. In addition, some people may place bets on sports events or horse races. While gambling is illegal in many places, it remains widely popular and available. The practice can be addictive and lead to financial, personal or family problems.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by maladaptive patterns of problem gambling behavior that persist over time, and despite attempts to control them. The majority of people with PG develop the disorder in adolescence or early adulthood. Men appear to be more affected than women, and PG typically begins at a younger age in males. Those with PG report having more difficulty controlling their behavior when it concerns strategic forms of gambling such as baccarat or blackjack, and with less socially interactive types of gambling such as slots or bingo.

Although there are no FDA-approved medications for treating a gambling disorder, some people find that taking medication can help them manage their symptoms. Counseling can also be useful. It can help people understand gambling disorders, think through the effects of their behaviors, and consider their options for change. It can also teach people to cope with unpleasant feelings without turning to gambling as a way to relieve them.

The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is acknowledging that you have one. This is a difficult step, especially if you’ve lost money or strained relationships because of your gambling habits. But it’s important to acknowledge the problem in order to get treatment.

Getting the right type of therapy can help you overcome your problems with gambling. There are several psychological interventions that can help, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and psychodynamic therapy. These therapies can help you examine your thoughts and emotions, learn healthier ways to cope with stress and boredom, and develop a more positive attitude toward life.

Gambling addiction often stems from underlying mood conditions, such as depression or anxiety. It’s also common to gamble as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings or relieve boredom. Getting the right treatment for these underlying mood disorders can be critical to breaking your gambling habit. It can also be helpful to seek counseling for a coexisting mental health condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which may trigger or worsen your gambling problems. You can also find support groups for gambling addicts and other people struggling with compulsive behaviors, which can be helpful in your recovery. These groups can help you connect with others who have gone through similar struggles and offer practical tips for coping.