How to Overcome a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or belongings on the outcome of a random event, such as a lottery, game of chance or sports betting. Although the term “gambling” is usually used to refer to casino games, it can also encompass other activities, such as betting on horse or dog races, football accumulators and political elections. Speculation on business, insurance and the stock market may also be considered gambling, but in this case skill and knowledge play a significant role in the odds of winning.

For some, gambling becomes an addictive behavior that ruins their personal and professional lives. This problem is referred to as gambling disorder and is classified in the DSM-5 under behavioral addictions. It’s similar to substance abuse in terms of its underlying causes, symptoms and treatment.

In the United States, about 2 million adults meet diagnostic criteria for severe gambling disorder in a year. About another 4-6 million are estimated to have mild or moderate gambling problems. People with a gambling disorder often lose control of their money, relationships and self-esteem. They feel trapped and hopeless, and they are unable to quit the behavior on their own.

Those with a gambling disorder are at risk for serious consequences, including financial ruin, bankruptcy, criminal charges and even suicide. It can also exacerbate other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. The most common signs of a gambling disorder include a loss of control, frequent and uncontrollable urges to gamble and increased time spent on gambling activities.

The most important step in recovering from a gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage, especially if you have lost a lot of money or strained your relationships. But it’s not impossible to break free from this habit, and many others have done so successfully.

There are several types of therapy to treat gambling disorders, and each one involves working closely with a trained and licensed mental health professional. Some options include psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on how unconscious processes influence your behavior. Another option is group therapy, which allows you to describe your problems to others and receive moral support. You can also seek help from a sponsor, who is a former gambler with experience remaining free from gambling.

To overcome a gambling addiction, you must learn to handle unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. You can do this by exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. You can also find other ways to entertain yourself, such as reading a book or taking up a new hobby. It’s also important to avoid chasing your losses. The more you try to win back your losses, the more likely you are to continue gambling. Also, make a rule not to gamble when you are upset or depressed.