Gambling is a common form of recreational and social activity, in which people place bets on events that have a random outcome. It can take many forms, from playing cards for small amounts of money to placing a bet on a horse race or lottery ticket. While it is legal in some countries, gambling can also be an addictive habit. It can affect both the person who gambles and those around them. The good news is that there are ways to treat the disorder, including therapy and medication.
While the exact cause of pathological gambling (PG) is unknown, it appears to run in families. In addition, identical twins tend to develop the condition at the same rate as non-identical twins, suggesting a genetic component. The condition often begins in adolescence or young adulthood and can persist for several years before developing into a full-blown problem. PG affects men and women equally, although men tend to report more problems with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as poker and blackjack.
A person who is addicted to gambling will likely experience a number of symptoms, which include:
Downplaying or lying to loved ones about their gambling behavior. Using other people’s money to fund gambling or to pay off debts incurred from gambling. Continuing to gamble even when it has a negative impact on work, education and personal relationships. The desire to win a large amount of money can trigger massive surges of the chemical dopamine in the brain, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors. The high levels of dopamine can create a vicious cycle, where the person seeks more pleasure from gambling and less from healthy activities.
The biggest challenge in overcoming gambling disorder is admitting that there is a problem. It can take tremendous strength to acknowledge this, especially if the person has lost a lot of money or strained or broken relationships in the process. Once the person has made this commitment, they can take steps to recover from their addiction, including therapy and medication.
Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can help someone with a gambling disorder. It can be done individually, in a group, or with family members. The main goal is to change harmful emotions, thoughts and behaviors. There are a number of different types of psychotherapy, including psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
There are no medications available to treat gambling disorders, but there are a number of therapies that can help. These treatments can include family therapy, marriage and relationship counseling, career and credit counseling, and support groups for those struggling with the disorder. Other treatment options include inpatient and residential programs for those who can’t control their urges to gamble. They offer round-the-clock care and support to help people overcome their compulsions. These programs can also provide a safe environment for those in recovery to learn new coping skills and build self-esteem. They may also receive medical care for other underlying mental health conditions.