Gambling is an activity where people risk something of value (like money or possessions) to predict the outcome of a random event. Whether it’s lotto tickets, betting on football matches, or scratchcards – gambling is a fun and rewarding activity for many people, but for others it can have serious repercussions. This can include damage to relationships, poor performance at work or school, and even debt and homelessness. For these people, it’s important to seek help.
The first step in getting treatment for a gambling addiction is to find out how the problem started and if it’s causing harm to your life. Often, a mood disorder, like depression or anxiety, is the root cause of the issue and can make compulsive gambling worse. Treatment for these disorders can also help you overcome your problem gambling and improve your overall quality of life.
It is important to avoid using the term ‘pathological’ to describe someone with a gambling problem as it can be stigmatising and is not necessarily accurate. Instead, GPs should screen for problems and refer patients to specialist services for further assessment. The assessment process will look at the impact of their gambling on their life and will use DSM criteria to determine whether they have a gambling addiction.
Despite a lack of comprehensive international data, it is clear that adolescent gamblers are at particular risk. Research suggests that they are more likely to have a gambling problem than adults and that their gambling behavior is associated with other negative consequences. Adolescents may experience financial consequences such as losing their allowance or bank account, or social consequences including alienating friends and family.
When gambling is done in the context of a mood disorder, it can increase symptoms of that disorder and can also have a negative effect on the person’s family. If you are concerned about the gambling habits of a friend or relative, it is important to reach out for support and seek advice.
There are many treatments for a gambling addiction, including psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT can help you change the way that you think about betting, for example, by challenging your beliefs that certain rituals will bring luck or that you can win back your losses by gambling more. Other treatments for gambling addictions can include family therapy, marriage and career counselling, and credit counseling. Often, these therapies will address the underlying issues that are contributing to the gambling addiction and will also lay the foundation for a healthier relationship with money and spending. This can be particularly helpful for adolescent problem gamblers. The most effective treatment for a gambling addiction is a combination of therapies and addressing any mood disorders that may be present. This can be achieved through individual or group therapy, and may include the use of medications if needed. This will be determined by the therapist after conducting the initial assessment. The therapist will then develop a personalized treatment plan that will be unique to each person’s circumstances.