Gambling Disorder


Gambling is the staking of something of value (be it money, goods, or services) upon an uncertain outcome in a game of chance. In some jurisdictions, the term gambling may also include certain business transactions such as those involving stocks and other securities and the purchase of life insurance or health insurance. Unlike lotteries, which involve a prize drawn at random, most forms of gambling require an element of skill or knowledge.

People of all ages and from every walk of life can develop a gambling problem, which can strain relationships and interfere with work. In the most severe cases, it can lead to financial disaster, and people can even end up stealing to finance their gambling habit. It’s important to recognize that you have a problem and seek help before it spirals out of control.

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the psychiatric manual has placed gambling disorder in the category of behavioral addictions, along with substance abuse disorders and other impulse control disorders. The move reflects the growing research evidence that pathological gambling shares many features with other substance-related disorders in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and physiology.

Among the criteria for gambling disorder are the loss of control over gambling, repeated losses, and a preoccupation with gambling or inability to stop. In addition, a person must believe that they can control their gambling behavior and that the activity is not a way to escape from problems or to relieve boredom or anxiety. Lastly, the individual must not have a medical condition such as bipolar disorder that can better account for the behavior.

Gambling can take many forms, from playing card games with friends for small amounts of money or chips to placing bets on a football game or horse race with coworkers. People often engage in social gambling to relieve unpleasant feelings and provide a break from daily stressors. Practicing healthier ways of relieving unpleasant emotions and soothing boredom can help individuals overcome gambling disorder.

Taking control of your life is the first step to overcoming a gambling problem. A therapist can teach you how to practice healthier coping skills and create a plan to help you avoid gambling. A therapist can also support you through the difficult process of breaking your habit.

There are several psychological treatments for gambling disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common approach, where a therapist helps you identify negative and obsessive thoughts and behaviors associated with gambling and learn to replace them with healthy ones. Motivational interviewing is another psychological treatment that uses empathy and encouragement to empower you to make a change in your lifestyle. Lastly, family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling can help you work through the specific issues created by gambling disorder and lay a foundation for repairing your relationships and finances. Find a therapist today.