How to Recognize a Gambling Problem


Gambling involves placing something of value, typically money, on an event with an element of chance and the potential for a larger reward. Common forms of gambling include lottery tickets, casino games such as slots and roulette, horse races, sports events, and scratchcards.

A growing body of research indicates that some people develop a gambling problem, in which case they are not able to control their gambling and it leads to serious problems. The condition is called pathological gambling and can cause major disruptions in the gambler’s life. The disorder affects the person’s relationships, work, and finances and can also lead to legal trouble.

It is important to recognize a gambling problem early on so that it can be addressed promptly with professional help. There are several types of psychotherapy that can be used to treat gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talk therapy that looks at beliefs about betting and how they impact one’s behaviour. It helps the individual change their negative thoughts and feelings about gambling and learn new ways to manage their behaviour.

Some people are more likely to develop a gambling problem, especially those who start gambling at a young age and those with family members who have a history of gambling problems. Other risk factors for gambling disorders include a family history of depression, having a high level of stress in one’s life, and living with a co-occurring mental health condition like anxiety or depression.

Although most people in the United States have placed a bet at some point in their lives, only a small percentage go on to develop a gambling disorder that is considered serious and interferes with daily functioning. This type of gambling disorder is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, as persistent and recurrent episodes of betting or wagering that result in significant distress or impairment.

In addition to psychological treatments, there are some medications that can be used to help people overcome gambling disorders. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve any drugs to treat gambling disorders. Many people find success with psychotherapy alone or in combination with other therapies, such as family therapy, individual psychotherapy, and group support programs like Gamblers Anonymous.

It takes tremendous strength and courage to admit that you have a gambling problem, particularly if it has cost you money and strained or even broken your relationships. But know that you are not alone: There is help available and other people have recovered from this devastating illness. Besides reaching out for support from friends and family, other steps that can be taken include practicing healthy coping mechanisms, finding alternative ways to spend time, and addressing any other mental health conditions that may be contributing to the problem gambling. The key is to make an effort to stop gambling or at least cut back. It is important to note that it will take time and practice to overcome the urge to gamble.