How to Stop a Gambling Addiction


Gambling is an activity in which you risk something of value, such as money, a car, or a job, for the chance to win something of equal value. It is a popular recreational activity in which about half the population of the United States engages. However, for some individuals gambling is a serious problem that can damage relationships and cause financial difficulties. Some people can even lose their homes.

Pathological gambling (PG) is an impulse control disorder that involves persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. It is estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet diagnostic criteria for PG. Those with PG often start gambling in adolescence or young adulthood and develop a PG diagnosis several years later. PG is more prevalent in males than females. Males tend to report problems with strategic, face-to-face gambling such as blackjack and poker and females seem to be more impacted by nonstrategic forms of gambling such as slot machines.

The underlying causes of PG are not well understood. Psychiatric research in this area has focused on cognitive and motivational factors that influence a person’s preference for one form of gambling over another. These include a tendency to view some events as more likely to occur than others, a bias toward taking risks in order to obtain a positive expected return on investment, and the misperception that gambling is a socially acceptable and ethical activity when it is not.

There are a number of ways to seek help for a gambling addiction. Counseling can provide support, education and guidance. It can also help you learn coping skills that will allow you to stop gambling and live your life in balance.

Family therapy, marriage counseling and career counselling can also address specific issues caused by a gambling addiction. They can help you rebuild your relationships and finances and lay the foundation for a more fulfilling life without gambling.

In addition to counseling, there are a variety of support groups that can be helpful. Many people who struggle with gambling find that they have a strong desire to gamble when they are bored, depressed, stressed or angry. It is important to identify these triggers and learn healthier ways to cope with them, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, practicing relaxation techniques and so forth.

Behavioral treatment is the most effective way to treat a gambling addiction. Behavioral therapy can be combined with other treatments, such as medications and psychotherapy, to achieve the best results. Medications can help alleviate the symptoms of a gambling disorder, including cravings, anxiety and depression. Psychotherapy can help you examine your beliefs and values and change the negative behaviors that have contributed to your gambling problem.

Longitudinal research is an effective method for examining the occurrence of a gambling disorder and its impact on a person’s life. Such studies can help identify factors that moderate and exacerbate a person’s gambling participation and make causal inferences. In addition, longitudinal studies can provide information on the onset and progression of problem gambling over time.