Gambling happens when you stake something of value — such as money or time — in exchange for the chance to win a prize. It can be found in a variety of settings, including casinos, racetracks, sporting events and even on the Internet. While gambling can provide enjoyment and excitement, it can also lead to problems if you are not careful. Some people have lost not only their money but their families, friends and careers as well. It’s important to know how to recognize the warning signs of unhealthy gambling and seek treatment as soon as possible.
If you think someone is struggling with problem gambling, it’s important to speak up and encourage them to get help. You can do this by suggesting they call a helpline, talk to their healthcare provider or mental health professional, or join an organization like Gamblers Anonymous. You can also offer your support by listening to them and offering empathy. It’s also a good idea to educate yourself on the topic of gambling so you can have meaningful conversations with them about the issues they may be facing.
Many people start gambling for a variety of reasons, from social to financial. For example, some people gamble because it makes a social gathering more enjoyable, or because they enjoy thinking about what they would do with a large winning jackpot. Others might do it as a way to escape from boredom or stress. Regardless of the reason, gambling can be very addictive and cause severe problems if it’s not treated early on.
The American Psychiatric Association has historically viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, and the latest edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) classifies it under impulse control disorders. This is a loose grouping that includes such disorders as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). The move to include it under this category suggests that the APA has begun to acknowledge the similarity of pathological gambling with substance abuse.
In the past, a person who developed an unhealthy gambling habit was considered to have an impulse control disorder, and not an addictive behavior, much in the same way that alcoholism was once thought to be a compulsion rather than an addiction. Fortunately, this change in understanding has helped to raise awareness of the problem and prompt more effective treatments.
There are a number of psychotherapy techniques that can be used to treat unhealthy gambling behaviors. One is family therapy, which involves meeting with a mental health professional with your loved ones to discuss their problems and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Another is psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on the unconscious processes that influence our behavior.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat gambling disorder, psychotherapy can be an effective treatment. Some types of psychotherapy include individual, group and couples therapy. Choosing the right type of therapy will depend on your loved one’s specific needs and preferences.