How to Overcome Problem Gambling

Gambling is the staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence. It can involve activities that are purely random, such as a roll of the dice or a flip of a coin, as well as those that require skill, such as blackjack or horse racing. It is illegal to gamble in many countries and jurisdictions. Gambling can have both positive and negative impacts on the gambler and others, including family, friends, and communities.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors that are out of control. PG typically starts in adolescence or early adulthood and, if left untreated, tends to progress over time, with symptoms becoming more severe. PG is more common among men than among women and is more likely to occur in those who report having experienced trauma or social inequality as part of their childhood. Moreover, people with PG are more likely to experience problems with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling than with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms such as slot machines or bingo.

Behavioral therapies are the main treatments for addressing problem gambling. Psychotherapy focuses on understanding and changing problematic behaviors, as well as teaching coping skills. Medications can help with the anxiety and depression that often accompany gambling disorders. However, they have not been proven to be effective for preventing gambling disorders.

The first step to overcoming problem gambling is to strengthen your support network. You can do this by spending time with family and friends, participating in a book club or sports team, taking classes or volunteering for a cause that you care about. You may also benefit from therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or group counseling. You can also seek out peer-support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program that follows the model of Alcoholics Anonymous.