Dealing With Gambling Disorders

Whether it’s buying a lotto ticket, placing a bet on the horse race or using the pokies, gambling is an activity that most people engage in at some time. But for some, the urge to gamble can become problematic and lead to a range of social and financial problems.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. It typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and is most prevalent in men. PG affects an estimated 0.4%-1.6% of adults and is more common in those who play strategic games like blackjack or poker rather than nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling such as slots or bingo.

Problematic gambling involves an excessive desire to bet and a preoccupation with gambling activities, to the extent that it negatively impacts a person’s everyday functioning and relationships. The disorder is characterized by a preoccupation with gambling, a distortion in perception of the odds of an event occurring and a loss of control over the amount and frequency of gambling. It often leads to serious economic, family, social and work-related problems.

A gambling disorder may be treated with a variety of therapies. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be particularly effective in those with a gambling addiction because it addresses the beliefs and behaviours associated with the disorder. For example, those with a gambling disorder believe that they are more likely to win than others and that certain rituals can increase their chances of winning. They also tend to feel more compelled to gamble when they are depressed or upset.

CBT can help people with a gambling disorder change these distorted beliefs and behaviours and overcome their addiction. Moreover, it can be used in conjunction with other therapies to improve the effectiveness of treatment. For example, a combination of CBT and group therapy such as Gamblers Anonymous can be very beneficial to those with a gambling disorder.

In addition to therapy, it is important for families of those with a gambling disorder to set limits when it comes to money. This includes setting a time limit for how long one wants to be gambling and avoiding putting the gambling money on credit cards. It’s also a good idea to balance gambling with other recreational and work-related activities. And finally, to avoid chasing losses, it’s helpful to learn more about how gambling works and what the odds are of winning or losing.

Ultimately, the biggest step to getting a handle on problematic gambling is admitting that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to do this, especially if you’ve lost significant amounts of money and strained or ruined your relationships as a result of your gambling habits. But don’t be afraid to seek professional help — therapists are well trained in dealing with gambling disorders and can teach you how to take back control of your finances and relationships.