Dealing With Gambling Disorders

Gambling is putting something of value on an event that involves chance, such as the outcome of a game of chance, a lottery, a race, or a bet. If you predict the outcome correctly, you win money. If you lose, you lose the money you put at risk. If you can’t control your gambling, it may be a sign that you need help.

Many people enjoy a flutter on the pokies, scratchcards or sports events, but for some, it can become an addiction. Some studies suggest that a high percentage of problem gamblers also have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. People with these conditions are more likely to use gambling as a way to feel better about themselves or escape their problems, and are more at risk of harmful gambling behaviours.

There are a number of things you can do to stop gambling, including finding other ways to relax and entertain yourself, handling stress in healthy ways, and addressing any other mental health conditions that might be contributing to your gambling. You can also seek professional help, including family therapy and individual psychotherapy. Some types of psychotherapy can help you change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors related to gambling. You can also ask for help from friends and family, and get support from gambling support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous.

A key step in dealing with a loved one’s problem is to set clear boundaries around managing the money in the household, as well as making sure that your own finances and credit are not at risk. You can do this by getting rid of any credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your money, having the bank make automatic payments for you, and closing online betting accounts. You should also try to avoid chasing losses. It’s a good idea to gamble only with money that you can afford to lose, and to keep track of your winnings and losses carefully.

Research on gambling has traditionally focused on the short-term effects of the activity, such as a change in mood or financial problems. However, longitudinal studies of gambling behavior are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. They can provide insight into the underlying causes of problematic gambling and improve treatment methods.

There are no FDA-approved medications for treating gambling disorders. But some psychotherapy techniques can be useful, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches you to challenge irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of small wins on the pokies will lead to bigger ones, and family therapy, which can help repair relationships damaged by the gambling habit. You can also try group therapy, where you meet with other people who have similar issues. These are often led by a mental health professional. If you have severe gambling problems, inpatient or residential programs are available. These can offer round-the-clock support and can be a good option for people who can’t quit gambling on their own.