Gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. It can be anything from betting on a football game to buying a scratchcard. It is a risky activity that can cause financial problems as well as straining relationships and, in some cases, lead to depression. It is possible to overcome gambling addiction, but the first step is admitting you have a problem. Then you need to take action by seeking treatment or finding support. There are many resources available to help people with gambling addictions, including inpatient treatment and rehab programs. There are also self-help groups for family members, such as Gamblers Anonymous, that can provide support and help to break the cycle of gambling behavior.
Research has shown that some people are genetically predisposed to a certain level of thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity. These differences are believed to be due to the way that specific brain regions process reward information, control impulses and weigh risk. Despite the fact that these biological differences may explain why some people are attracted to gambling, it is still important to note that there are many other factors that contribute to an individual’s propensity for gambling. These include an early big win, boredom susceptibility, the illusion of control, a poor understanding of random events, escape coping and stress.
Often, gambling becomes an addiction because it provides a temporary source of pleasure and excitement while providing a false sense of control. It is also used to meet basic human needs, such as a sense of belonging and the need for status. Casinos are designed to promote these feelings through elaborate marketing and customer loyalty programs.
The most difficult aspect of overcoming a gambling disorder is recognising that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to acknowledge that you have a gambling addiction, especially when it has already cost you money and strained or broken relationships. You may feel a strong urge to gamble and justify it by telling yourself that you can just “win one more time.” It is important to seek professional help if you have a gambling disorder because it is often a sign of a mental health condition, such as depression.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve any medications for treating gambling disorder, psychotherapy has proven effective in changing unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. This type of treatment can be done on a short-term basis or over a longer period of time with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. Psychotherapy includes a range of techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation and interpersonal therapy. Some treatments involve group therapy while others focus on individual counseling sessions with a therapist. The most common type of psychotherapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaviors that lead to gambling problems.