How to Overcome a Gambling Disorder


Gambling is risking something of value, usually money, on an activity that has a significant element of chance and the potential to win a prize. It is an ancient activity that can be found in nearly every culture throughout history. Gambling can take many forms, from wagering on sporting events or lottery numbers to betting on horse races or buying scratch-off tickets. Many people find gambling to be an enjoyable hobby, but for some, it can become an addictive, costly behavior that negatively impacts their health, relationships, employment, education, family and financial stability.

Problem gambling is an intensely emotional and often secretive activity. People who have a problem with gambling often feel depressed, anxious and guiltful about their actions. This can lead to problems in work, family and social life, and can result in legal or health complications. Those who gamble excessively are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population.

It is estimated that more than half of the population in England takes part in some form of gambling. While for some, gambling is a harmless hobby, it can be harmful for others, impacting physical and mental health, personal relationships, performance at work or school and even leading to debt or homelessness. Problem gambling also has an adverse effect on those closest to the gambler, with families, friends and work colleagues being affected. This can lead to tension, arguments and even divorces.

There are a number of things that can help someone overcome their gambling disorder and break the vicious cycle of addiction. The first step is to build a strong support network and seek help. This can include family, friends and a local gambling addiction treatment center. It is also helpful to engage in activities that provide an alternative to gambling, such as volunteering or taking up a new hobby. Joining a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can be particularly beneficial. This program is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous and includes finding a sponsor – a former gambler with experience remaining free from gambling addiction – to provide guidance and support.

In the past, the understanding of gambling problems was that they were a behavioral condition. However, in recent years the understanding of the disorder has undergone a radical change and is now viewed as a mental illness. This shift has been reflected in the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling in the four editions of the DSM (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

When people gamble, they must be aware that the outcome of the game depends on luck as well as skill. This is why a player should never bet more money than they can afford to lose and only play for entertainment. In addition, players should always remember that everything goes up must come down – winnings are not necessarily real money, but rather “credits” that can be redeemed for actual cash. Lastly, players should never lie to cover up their losses and should only gamble with money that is available for entertainment purposes.