Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or items of sentimental value) on an event that is at least in part determined by chance. If the gambler is correct, they win something of value; if not, they lose what they bet. While gambling is often associated with slot machines and casinos, it also encompasses many other activities, including playing bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, and betting on office pools. Some of these activities are illegal, while others are legal in some jurisdictions but require special licensing and regulation to conduct.

People who have gambling disorders are at high risk for depression, anxiety and other psychological problems. They may also experience physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal distress, headaches and migraines. Problem gambling has serious consequences for the health of both individuals and families, and is categorized as an impulse control disorder in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

There are a variety of treatment options for gambling disorders, including psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, social support groups and family-based treatments. Individuals in need of more intensive treatment may be referred to residential or inpatient programs, where they can receive round-the-clock care. Some of these programs include a combination of group and individual therapy, educational classes and family therapy.

It is important to avoid gambling triggers, such as thinking you’re due for a big win or being around friends who gamble. It’s also helpful to learn healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, focusing on your hobbies or practicing relaxation techniques.

If you’re struggling with a gambling disorder, seek help immediately. There are several ways to get help for a gambling addiction, including counseling, self-help groups and online support forums. You may also want to consider joining an inpatient program, which is designed for those who cannot control their gambling habits without around-the-clock care.

While there are no drugs approved by the FDA to treat pathological gambling, some medications may be helpful in treating co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety. Psychiatric services can also provide support and education to those with gambling disorders, as well as offer help in finding and funding a treatment program.