How to Cope With a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is the risking of something of value, such as money or possessions, on an event involving randomness or chance. It includes betting on sporting events, games of skill, and lottery results, as well as scratchcards, fruit machines and casino games like roulette and blackjack. In some cases, gambling can lead to serious problems with work, relationships and mental health, even homelessness and suicide. Problem gambling can also affect family and friends.

The risk of developing a gambling disorder increases with age. It is also more common in men than women and can run in families, suggesting a genetic link. In addition, people with coexisting mental health conditions like depression or anxiety are more likely to develop a gambling disorder.

Symptoms of gambling disorder include a preoccupation with gambling, a desire to gamble more often and in higher amounts, and hiding or lying about gambling activities. Some people also experience changes in their thinking and behavior, such as becoming less focused on work or family responsibilities or more aggressive or reckless. Some people may be more prone to gambling because of personality traits or a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behavior and impulsivity. Others may be influenced by their culture or the values of their community, which can influence how they view gambling and what is considered normal.

There are no FDA-approved medications for treating gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can help. Psychotherapy is a general term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Treatment options can include individual counseling, group therapy and psychodynamic therapy. There are also a number of self-help support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, that offer peer support to those with gambling disorders.

In addition, many states have gambling helplines and other assistance for those who are struggling with a gambling disorder. It is important to get support from family and friends, as well as to find other things to do with your time. Distracting yourself and postponing the urge to gamble can help. Using a budget for your gambling funds helps you to keep track of how much you spend, and setting a limit to the amount you will spend each visit can help you avoid over-spending.

It is also important to practice healthy coping skills, such as stress management and relaxation techniques, as well as addressing any coexisting mental health issues that may be contributing to the gambling disorder. Other helpful strategies include exercising, avoiding isolation, and getting support from family and friends. Some people who have a gambling disorder are able to stop their gambling behavior by working with a trained therapist, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. Some programs offer inpatient or residential care for those with severe gambling disorders who require round-the-clock support to stay away from gambling. In these programs, patients live in a safe and structured environment while learning about healthy coping strategies and how to overcome the addiction to gambling.