How to Deal With a Gambling Problem

Gambling is a type of entertainment in which people bet money or something else of value on an event that has a chance of occurring. It can take many forms, including betting on sports events or games of chance such as bingo or roulette. People may also gamble for coping reasons, such as to forget their worries or to socialise with friends. However, some people can become addicted to gambling and may experience problems such as debt or depression.

The risk of developing a gambling problem is higher for certain groups, including young children and adolescents, those who start gambling at a younger age, those with a family history of gambling or mental health issues and those living in rural areas. It can also be influenced by your environment, genetics and personal circumstances.

A person can become addicted to gambling for a number of reasons, including an underactive brain reward system, impulsivity and other mood disorders, which can include anxiety or depression. Some people are also genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and a tendency to be impulsive. Culture can also influence a person’s view of gambling and how they think about it, and this can make it harder to recognise a gambling problem or seek help when it becomes problematic.

There are several ways to seek help for a gambling disorder, from self-help tips and support groups to treatment programmes and residential rehabilitation. Self-help tips include:

Don’t ignore warning signs. If you think your gambling is becoming a problem, it’s important to act quickly before the issue gets worse. This includes not hiding or lying about your gambling, avoiding credit cards and other financial accounts, and not relying on other people to fund your addiction. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of your gambling activity and spend.

You can also try to find new things to do with your time. For example, you could join a book club or a sports team, find hobbies and interests, or volunteer for a charity. Alternatively, you can also join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous.

Treatment options can include psychotherapy, which uses a variety of techniques to help you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It takes place with a trained, licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. You can also try cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you replace unhelpful beliefs about gambling with more realistic ones and learn coping skills. Some treatments, such as family and individual psychotherapy, can be used alongside other interventions, such as self-help groups and support from a sponsor. You can also seek help from a community support service, such as StepChange, which offers free debt advice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, but some drugs can be helpful in treating co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.