Gambling is the betting of something of value, such as money or property, on an event with a chance of winning a prize. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including to make money or simply for enjoyment. However, there are also serious risks associated with gambling and those who struggle with pathological gambling should seek treatment to help them overcome their addiction.
The psychological risk factors that can contribute to problematic gambling include personality traits, family and peer relationships, and coexisting mental health conditions. These factors can lead to an increased likelihood of developing a gambling disorder, which is defined by a person’s inability to control their gambling behaviors, despite negative impacts on their life and those around them.
Problematic gambling can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. The impact can range from subclinical gambling behavior to those who meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for pathological gambling disorder. Common signs of problem gambling include lying or downplaying the impact of gambling on one’s financial situation, relying on friends and family to fund their gambling, and continuing to gamble even after it negatively affects work, education, or personal relationships.
People who suffer from a gambling disorder may experience anxiety symptoms that can be difficult to manage with traditional treatments. In these cases, it’s important to find a therapist who specializes in treating gambling disorders to help them break the harmful cycle of gambling and anxiety symptoms. Psychotherapy can help people identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors related to gambling.
In addition to treating the underlying causes of gambling disorder, therapy can help people develop healthier coping mechanisms. Gambling can provide relief from stress, but it can also cause more stress if the individual begins to rely on it to deal with everyday life challenges. People who suffer from anxiety should instead seek out healthy ways to cope with stress, such as taking up a new hobby, exercising, practicing relaxation techniques, or spending time with family and friends.
There are no medications available to treat gambling disorder, but there are several different types of psychotherapy that can help people break the harmful gambling cycle. Psychotherapy involves working with a licensed mental health professional to identify and change unhealthy beliefs, emotions, and behaviors related to gambling. It is often used in combination with other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and family or group therapy. In addition, psychotherapy can help individuals recognize and avoid triggers that cause them to engage in unhealthy gambling behaviors. For example, a person who has a gambling disorder might start to gamble more frequently after they attend a sporting event. During this event, their brain is sending out massive amounts of dopamine that can lead to dangerous cravings and addiction. Using this knowledge, they can learn to avoid these triggers and keep their gambling behavior under control.