Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and with the hope of winning. It includes casino games like slots and blackjack, as well as sports betting and buying lottery or scratch-off tickets. Some people gamble to relieve stress, take their minds off other problems, or socialize with friends. Others do it for the thrill of a potential big win, which can change their mood. Even paying a premium on life insurance can be considered a form of gambling, since the insurance company acts as a bookmaker and sets odds based on actuarial data.

In some cases, the behavior becomes compulsive and can impact your daily functioning. While most people who gamble do not have a problem, a small number of adults develop a gambling disorder. This is sometimes called pathological gambling or compulsive gambling, and it affects both adolescents and adults. Typically, it is more common in men and young people. People with other mental health disorders are also more susceptible to gambling addiction.

Several types of psychotherapy can help. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can teach you ways to recognize and change unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Other techniques can include psychodynamic therapy, which looks at how unconscious processes influence your behavior. Family and group therapy can help you address issues that are exacerbated by your gambling behavior, and marriage, career, and credit counseling can help you rebuild your finances and relationships. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorders, but some drugs can help ease depression or anxiety that may be contributing to your problem.

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